Monday, 25th January 2016

LIBYA – Lawmakers in Libya’s internationally recognized Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposed United Nations-backed unity cabinet on Monday, dealing a blow to diplomatic efforts to swiftly reconcile the country’s splintered factions. (The New York Times)

Syria – The United Nations announced on Monday that it would aim to start Syria peace talks on Friday, as Syrian military forces, aided by Russian air power, made new gains on the battlefield, suggesting that even these still precarious diplomatic negotiations would bring little respite in the fighting for the next several months. (The New York Times)

Tuesday, 26th January 2016

Euopean Union – The European Union should be ready with alternative plans to reinforce its borders until Turkey and Greece do more to reduce the number of refugees streaming into the bloc, the Czech and Slovak prime ministers said on Tuesday. (Reuters)

The European Union is discussing imposing travel bans and asset freezes on at least two Libyans it sees as blocking efforts by the United Nations to form a government of national unity, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Israel – Turkey should cease any relationship with Hamas, official and unofficial, and close down the terrorist organizations operating inside the country if it wants to normalize ties with Jerusalem, Israel’s envoy to Athens said in an interview published in Greece this week. (The Jerusalem Post)

SYRIA – The Saudi-backed Syrian opposition said it would decide on Wednesday whether to take part in Geneva peace talks this week, saying it welcomed an invitation to the negotiations but was seeking clarifications from the United Nations. (Reuters)

ITALY – Iranian President Hassan Rohani flew to Italy on Monday at the start of his first official visit to Europe, looking to sign multi-billion dollar contracts to help modernize Iran’s economy after years of crippling financial sanctions. Heading a 120-strong delegation of Iranian business leaders and ministers, Rohani will spend two days in Rome before flying to France on Wednesday, hoping to burnish Tehran’s international credentials at a time of turmoil across the Middle East. (Haaretz)

Wednesday, 27th January 2016

SYRIA – Haytham Manna, the co-leader of the Syrian Democratic Council, told Reuters on Wednesday he would not take part in peace talks in Geneva unless two Kurdish leaders, Saleh Muslim and Ilham Ahmed, also get an invitation to party. (The Jerusalem Post)

Syrian Kurdish officials will not be invited to peace talks in Geneva, where negotiations for the opposition will be led by a Saudi-backed opposition group, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday. (Reuters)

The Syrian government in 2015 ignored most United Nations requests to deliver humanitarian aid to some of the 4.6 million people in hard-to-reach and besieged areas and only 620,000 received help, the U.N. aid chief said on Wednesday. (Al Alarabiya)

ISRAEL – The United States, European Union and the United Nations have issued unusually stern criticism of Israel, provoking a sharp response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and raising Palestinians’ hopes of steps against their neighbour. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday described Israel’s settlements as “provocative acts” that raised questions about its commitment to a two-state solution, nearly 50 years after occupying lands the Palestinians seek for a state. (Reuters)

ALGERIA – Algeria has suspended flights to Tripoli, a few days after it detained hundreds of Moroccans trying to travel to Libya having arrived at the international airport in the capital Algiers.

Libya has become a regional concern since Islamic State militants gained ground there and called for foreign recruits, especially from North Africa. Algeria is an important U.S. ally in its fight against armed groups in the region. (Reuters)

Thursday, 28st January 2016

FRANCE – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told French business leaders on Wednesday that Iran was open for investment as he started a visit in France to revive business ties despite diplomatic differences. (Reuters)

TURKEY – The leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition said conflict in the country’s largely Kurdish southeast had grown into an international problem, feeding into war in neighbouring Syria, and urged allies to do more to push for a ceasefire. (Al Arabiya)

LYBIA – Western powers are prepared to fight Islamic State in Libya even if the North African country fails to agree on a unified government soon, Italy’s defence minister said on Thursday. Libya’s internationally recognized parliament rejected the United Nations proposal for a unified government earlier this week. Meanwhile, the militant group IS is stepping up attacks throughout the country. (Reuters)

SIRYA – The Syrian opposition said it will not attend peace talks due to begin in Geneva on Friday, derailing the first attempt in two years to hold negotiations aimed at ending the five-year-long war. An opposition council convening in Riyadh said its delegation would “certainly” not be in Geneva on Friday, saying it had not received convincing answers to its demands for goodwill steps including an end to air strikes and blockades. (Reuters)

Friday, 29th January 2016

SYRIA – Peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s five-year civil war got off to a shaky and chaotic start Friday, with the main opposition group at first boycotting the session, then later agreeing to meet with U.N. officials — while still insisting it would not negotiate. (The New York Times)

FRANCE – France will recognise a Palestinian state if a final push that Paris plans to lead for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians fails, its foreign minister said on Friday. U.S.-led efforts to broker peace for a two-state solution collapsed in April 2014 and since then there have been no serious efforts to resume talks. (Reuters)

TUNISIA – Tunisia declared a nationwide curfew on Friday after four days of protests and rioting over jobs and economic conditions, the interior ministry said. The ministry said in a statement that due to the risk to public and private property a curfew would be imposed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., starting on Friday. (Al Arabiya)

LIBYA – Fires at oil storage tanks in the major Libyan terminal of Ras Lanuf were still raging on Friday more than 24 hours after an attack by Islamic State militants, a firefighting official said. Mustafa Moussi said fires were burning at five of the terminal’s 13 storage tanks, one of which was close to collapse. (Reuters)