Monday, 8th June 2015

EGYPT – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s one-year tenure in office has witnessed human rights abuses and an escalation in violence by armed groups and the government, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. The New York-based rights group called on Western governments to stop overlooking government abuses that it said included mass detentions, military trials for civilians and mass death sentences. (Al Arabiya)

ISRAEL – U.N. Secretary General Bank Ki-moon has decided not to include Israel or Hamas to its “blacklist” of states and/or organizations that systematically and continuously harm children during times of conflict. (Haaretz)

LIBYA – U.N. negotiators on Monday handed Libya’s warring factions a draft proposal for forming a unity government in an attempt to end a conflict that threatens to push the North African country into becoming a failed state. Western officials say the U.N. talks are the only hope of halting fighting between two rival governments and their armed forces that has battered the OPEC country since the 2011 uprising that ended Muammar Gaddafi’s one-man rule. An internationally recognized government has been operating out of eastern Libya since an armed alliance known as Libya Dawn took over the capital Tripoli and set up a self-declared government last summer. (Reuters)

SYRIA – The U.N.’s nuclear agency is studying a request from Syria to help convert an atomic reactor near Damascus to use lower grade nuclear fuel, which would be harder to use in bombs, its head said on Monday. (Reuters)

Group of Seven leaders believe a window of opportunity for a political deal in Syria may be opening up that would eventually see President Bashar al-Assad step down, giving way to a new coalition government, officials familiar with the discussions at a G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps said. (Reuters)

TURKEY – Turkey faced the prospect of weeks of political turmoil after the ruling AK Party lost its parliamentary majority in weekend polls, dealing a blow to President Tayyip Erdogan’s ambitions to acquire sweeping new powers. (The Daily Star)

A string of bombings targeting Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party during its campaign to enter parliament has been linked with Islamic State in Syria, the party’s chairman said on Monday. Three people were killed in two blasts on Friday in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey, minutes before Selahattin Demirtas, head of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), addressed a political rally. (Reuters)

Thursday, 9th June 2015

EGYPT – The State Department said on Tuesday it will not meet a Muslim Brotherhood group visiting Washington for a private conference but said its policy remained to engage Egypt’s entire political spectrum. The department announced the decision a day after sources told Reuters that the U.S. ambassador to Egypt had been summoned by Egyptian authorities because of their unhappiness about the private visit by Brotherhood figures to Washington. (Al Arabiya)

The Egyptian government on Tuesday dismissed a report that accused it of widespread human rights violations as politicized and lacking in objectivity and accuracy. New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Monday, which marked one year of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s presidency, that his tenure had seen increased abuses and an escalation in violence by armed groups and the government. It charged Western governments with overlooking abuses. (Reuters)

ISRAEL – The Islamist Hamas movement that dominates Gaza has gained in popularity among all Palestinians since last year’s war with Israel, but most feel the devastation caused by the conflict outweighs its achievements, a new poll shows. Pollster Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey also reported what he called “the highest number ever recorded” – 50 percent – of Palestinians in the impoverished and isolated Gaza Strip considering emigration. (Reuters)

LIBYA – A U.N. proposal to form a unity government for Libya, which has rival administrations fighting for territory and oil resources, was rejected by one of the sides on Tuesday, a senior lawmaker said, after months of negotiations. The elected parliament, based in eastern Libya, rejected the proposal and withdrew from the talks aimed at ending the crippling power struggle. Libya’s official government has been based in the east since a rival faction seized Tripoli in August, setting up a rival administration. (Reuters)

SYRIA – Syrian rebels said they had captured a major Syrian army base in the south of the country on Tuesday, a defeat that would add to the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad after other recent setbacks. (Al Arabiya)

TURKEY – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s loss of his parliamentary majority is unlikely to end disagreements between Washington and Ankara, particularly over the conflict in Turkey’s southern neighbour Syria, U.S. officials said on Monday. (Reuters)

 

Wednesday, 10th June 2015

EGYPT – A suicide bomber blew himself up near the ancient Egyptian Karnak Temple in the southern city of Luxor on Wednesday, security sources said, a possible sign that Islamist militants are shifting focus to try to derail Egypt’s economic recovery. (Reuters)

GREECE – The European Central Bank boosted emergency funds for Greek banks by the biggest weekly amount since February, as uncertainty about the country’s future in the Eurozone is pushing nervous depositors to withdraw their savings. (The Wall Street Journal)

ISRAEL – America’s top general sought to reassure Israel on Tuesday of “unshakable” U.S. military support, despite deep strains in political relations over the prospect of a U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran and differences over Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. (Reuters)

LIBYA – ISIS claimed to have seized full control Tuesday of the Libyan city of Sirte from the LibyaDawn militia, including a power plant, according to a U.S. monitor. (The Daily Star)

TURKEY – A pro-Kurdish party came out of Sunday’s national election as a big winner, drawing broad-enough support to secure a record 13% of the vote and to enter parliament for the first time. However, the celebratory mood in Kurdish-dominated cities has turned to worry amid an outbreak of internecine street violence that threatens to undermine security in southeastern Turkey as well as efforts to end the region’s three-decade Kurdish insurgency. (The Wall Street Journal)

Turkey’s ruling AK Party will exhaust all options in trying to form a new government before an early election is considered, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday, and he appeared to warn President Tayyip Erdogan against meddling. In an interview with state broadcaster TRT, Davutoglu said Erdogan would not be involved in coalition negotiations after the AKP lost its parliamentary majority in a weekend election, and that he would only intervene in the event of a crisis. Sunday’s election ended more than a decade of single-party rule in the NATO member and EU candidate nation, dealing a blow to Erdogan’s ambitions for a powerful U.S.-style presidency and plunging it into political uncertainty not seen since the 1990s. (Reuters)

 

Tuesday, 11th June 2015

EUROPEAN UNION – European powers Wednesday urged Libya’s warring factions to accept a peace deal within days, warning them that without an accord the only winners would be Islamist militants who have used the country’s chaos to gain ground. (The Daily Star)

ISRAEL – Before the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon urgently to his bureau. The undeclared reason for the meeting was Kahlon’s remark, quoted in this column, to the effect that it will be impossible to sustain a coalition of 61 Knesset members for long. (Haaretz)

LIBYA – The Libyan wing of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video on Thursday purportedly showing it blowing up two warplanes at an air base while its fighters paraded heavy weapons in a show of force. The video showed the group’s fighters manning a tank, firing a mortar gun and destroying the planes parked in front of a hangar at the base seized by the militants near the central city of Sirte. (Reuters)

SYRIA – Syrian Kurdish fighters advanced towards the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group-held town of Tal Abyad on the Turkish border on Thursday, backed by U.S.-led coalition strikes, a monitor said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces backed by Arab rebel fighters “stormed the town of Suluk and took control of the eastern part of it”. (Al Arabiya)

TURKEY – Thousands of people fled from Syria into Turkey this week as rebels and Kurdish forces battled Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters who are holding the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad. The refugees, many of them women and children, entered Turkey on Wednesday through a makeshift border crossing overseen by Turkish gendarmerie officers. A Turkish official said 2,000 refugees were being registered Wednesday after more than 6,800 were admitted in the area last week. He said they were fleeing advances by Kurdish YPG forces as well as aerial bombardment by the United States and Arab allies trying to help the Kurds push back ISIL. (Al Jazeera)

 

Friday, 12th June 2015

EUROPEAN UNION – EU member states are working on alternatives to the European Commission’s proposal for relocation of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece. The aim is to work out a ‘Plan B’ able to get the talks out of their current stalemate, though it is likely a minority that is causing the deadlock. EU sources say that an unofficial passage will be discussed at the EU interior ministers meeting on Tuesday. According to what came out of preparatory meetings for the meeting, say the sources, out of the 28 countries only three – Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark – made use of a clause to opt out, while a dozen were against and three did not express an opinion. (ANSAMed)

GERMANY – German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on all parties to return to the negotiating table for bailout negotiations with Greece, just hours after the International Monetary Fund said it was halting talks with Greece. “Where there is a will, there is a way, but the will must come from all sides”, Ms. Merkel said in Berlin, stressing the importance of talks continuing. The chancellor’s call comes just hours after the IMF said it had made no progress in negotiations with Greece and cited major differences in most key areas. (The Wall Street Journal)

LEBANON – Fighters from Syria’s Al-Qaeda branch, the Nusra Front, have killed at least 20 Druze villagers, raising fear for one of Syria’s minorities as insurgents including Sunni Islamists gain ground against President Bashar Assad. Druze in Lebanon and Israel have made separate appeals for their Syrian kin to be armed to defend themselves from groups such as Nusra and the more powerful ISIS, which has persecuted both minorities and fellow Sunnis. (The Daily Star)

SYRIA – Members of Syria’s Druze minority have helped repel a rebel attack on an army base in the south, mobilizing to confront insurgents including al Qaeda’s Nusra Front who are trying to build on gains against President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters)

TUNISIA – Tunisia’s foreign ministry said Friday that an armed militia has attacked the Tunisian general consulate in Libya’s capital and taken 10 employees hostage. The ministry issued a statement condemning the attack, calling it “a vile aggression” against Tunisia’s sovereignty and a violation of international conventions protecting diplomatic personnel. (Al Jazeera)