Monday, 29th February 2016

GREECE – Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said on Sunday that the EU cannot allow Greece, a country bailed out from its huge debt crisis, to plunge into “chaos” by shutting European borders to refugees. (The Telegraph)

SYRIA – The UN chief says a shaky ceasefire in Syria is holding “by and large” on its third day, despite scattered fighting and growing accusations of violations. However, a war of words between the Syrian government and Saudi Arabia has added to rising tensions. (Al Jazeera)

Syria could become a federal state if that model works in the country, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a news briefing on Monday. A fragile cessation of hostilities has led to a dramatic reduction of violence in Syria over the weekend, though rebels are accusing the government of numerous violations including air strikes. (Reuters)

TURKEY – Russia is concerned about Turkey’s military preparations along its border with Syria and an armed intervention by Ankara would deal an “irreparable blow” to the Syria ceasefire plan, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday. (Al Arabiya)

WAR ON TERROR – Defense ministers from the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State militant group discussed the possibility of a Syrian ground incursion two weeks ago but they have not made a decision, an aide to Saudi Arabia’s defense minister said on Monday. (Reuters)

Tuesday, 1st March 2016

ISRAEL – Hundreds of Palestinian workers have been left unemployed after the SodaStream factory where they worked moved out of the occupied West Bank and back into Israel following an international boycott campaign. (The Guardian)

SYRIA – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in a phone call on Tuesday, reaffirmed the need for cooperation to ensure the end of hostilities in Syria, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. (Reuters)

Syrian peace talks that were suspended last month because of continuing fighting are to resume in Geneva on 9 March, the UN has announced, in a sign of confidence that a fledgling cessation of hostilities agreement is just about holding. (The Guardian)

MIGRANT CRISIS – Police in Macedonia have fired tear gas and stun grenades after hundreds of frustrated Iraqi and Syrian refugees tried to force their way through a razor-wire barrier across the border into the southeastern European country from Greece. (Al Jazeera)

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016

LEBANON – Gulf countries announce the decision amid an ongoing row with the Lebanese group over involvement in regional conflicts. Member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, known as the GCC, have classified Lebanese movement Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organization, citing “hostile actions” by the armed group. (Al Jazeera)

Saudi Arabia cuts billions in aid to Lebanon, opening door for Iran. Even as Iran and Saudi Arabia supported opposite sides in a bitter and bloody proxy war in Syria, the two adversaries managed to preserve a tense calm just over the border in Lebanon, where they have long competed for influence. (The New York Times)

MIGRANT CRISIS – The EU will create a new €700 million aid fun to prevent a “humanitarian disaster” in Greece and other countries on the migrant trial. The cash, to be funneled to major charities, will be spent on food, healthcare, and shelter over the next three years for refugees. (The Telegraph)

SYRIA – The United States is working with Russia to improve access to besieged areas in Syria and to stop the Syrian government from removing medical supplies from aid convoys, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday. (Reuters)

WAR ON TERROR – A new US special operations team has been questioning a key Islamic State leader in Iraq since seizing him in a raid last month, according to US officials. It is believed to be the first case of a top Isis militant captured alive in that country. (The Guardian)

Thursday, 3rd March 2016

ISRAEL – A joint exercise now being conducted between thousands of Israeli troops and the U.S. European Command represents a final test before Israel begins to deploy one of the most sophisticated missile defense systems in the world. (The Washington Post)

LEBANON – Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Thursday criticized as “irresponsible” a decision by Gulf monarchies to classify the militant group as a “terror” organization for its role in regional conflicts. (Al Monitor)

SYRIA – The northern Syrian city of Aleppo has been surrounded by pro-regime forces and is facing a devastating siege despite the declaration of a ceasefire, humanitarian leaders said Thursday. (Al Monitor)

The leaders of the UK, France and Germany will hold a conference call with Vladimir Putin, during which they will urge the Russian president to do more to prevent breaches of the Syrian ceasefire. (The Guardian)

TURKEY – Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast has suffered the worst violence in two decades since a ceasefire between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) fell apart last July. This week, Turkish police used plastic bullets, teargas and water cannons against thousands of demonstrators protesting the curfew in Diyarbakır. (The Guardian)

Friday, 4th March 2016

JORDAN – A new trade deal with Europe, a rush of foreign investment and public works are to put 200,000 Syrian refugees to work in Jordan in what the international community has described as a radical new approach to tackling the biggest displacement crisis in decades. (The Washington Post)

MIGRANT CRISIS – The European Commission set out a timetable on Friday for restoring open borders in Europe by the end of the year as EU leaders cajoled Turkey to act to stop the flow of migrants fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and beyond. (Reuters)

SYRIA – President Vladimir Putin told the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy during a conference call Friday that the Syrian regime’s decision to hold legislative polls in April does not contradict the peace process. (The Daily Star)

TURKEY – A car bomb and rocket attack by Kurdish militants killed two police officers and wounded 35 people in the southeastern Turkish province of Mardin on Friday, security sources told Reuters. (Reuters)