Monday, 11th May 2015

EGYPT – A U.N. attempt to work out a ban on nuclear weapons in the Middle East was in jeopardy after Egypt complained on Monday about the lack of progress and demanded the resignation of the Finnish coordinator of the initiative. Western officials said Arab proposals drafted by Egypt for a major nuclear non-proliferation conference at United Nations headquarters in New York could torpedo the process and push Israel to walk away. (Reuters)

Egyptian newspapers are publishing what would have been unthinkable when then-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi removed the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013: suggestions that he is fallible. It is a sign that a man who enjoys cult-like support may be starting to lose some popularity as elected president. El-Sisi has boosted his regional status by helping Saudi Arabia wage war against Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen and spearheading an initiative to create a joint Arab force to fight Islamic State. (Reuters)

EUROPEAN UNION – The European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has gone to the U.N. Security Council seeking help for “saving migrants’ lives” in the Mediterranean, and approval for the plan to use force against people smugglers. The European Union wants clear legal backing at international level for a draft resolution authorizing military operations to inspect and possibly destroy traffickers’ boats. (Euronews)

LIBYA – Libyan military shells Turkish cargo ship killing one crewmember. Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government said on Monday they shelled a Turkish ship off the Libyan coast after it was warned not to approach, and one crewmember was killed in what Turkey described as a “contemptible attack”. (The Telegraph)

Thursday, 12th May 2015

TUNISIA – Little stirs at mid-morning in the Tunisian town of Métlaoui; few shops are open and the local phosphate mine lies idle, blockaded by unemployed young men demanding the government fulfill the economic promises of their country’s revolution. Dozens of protest tents are pitched across the rural town with placards calling for “Dignity” and “Work”. One ironic sign advertises: “We buy and sell University Diplomas” in a nod to desperation even among many graduates, four years after the revolution that has brought democracy but few jobs. The camp scattered over hillsides surrounding the mine, normally a major export earner, is among scores of protests ranging from sit-ins and hunger strikes to riots that have erupted this month in southern Tunisia. (Reuters)

TURKEY – Turkey and Greece have agreed new security measures in the contested Aegean Sea and are backing efforts to resolve a long-running dispute over Cyprus, the foreign ministers of the two countries said on Tuesday. Ankara and Athens have a longstanding dispute over territorial borders in the Aegean, with warplanes from both sides regularly engaging in mock dogfights. The NATO allies have as recently as the 1990s come to the brink of war over such disputes. (Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS – The International Criminal Court can investigate alleged crimes by Islamic State militants in Libya, but it is first up to individual states to prosecute their citizens accused of offences, the Hague-based court’s prosecutor said on Tuesday. The U.N. Security Council asked the court in 2011 to investigate crimes committed since the start of an uprising the same year that led to the fall of leader Muammar Gaddafi. (Reuters)

 

Wednesday, 13th May 2015

EGYPT – Unprecedented media criticism of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi suggests he may no longer enjoy unquestioning support from the diverse groups that helped him to stage an army takeover two years ago. However, diplomats and analysts say there is no immediate danger to el-Sisi’s presidency, and he may even by the victim of his own success in crushing Islamism and stabilizing the economy. (The Jerusalem Post)

ISRAEL – A senior Israeli intelligence official who tracks the regional arms balance said on Wednesday that Egypt was buying Russia’s advanced S-300 air defense system, a deal reported in Russian media but not confirmed by Cairo. Asked about the Israeli remarks, an Egyptian official reached by Reuters did not corroborate them but said that Israel should not feel threatened. (Reuters)

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s emerging government was scraped by its first parliamentary test Wednesday, paving the way for the new Cabinet to be sworn in after two months of difficult coalition building. By a narrow 61-59 vote, parliament ratified a legislative amendment allowing Netanyahu to increase the number of ministers he can appoint to his Cabinet, enabling him to meet demands from his own Likud party and other coalition partners. (Daily Star)

LEBANON – Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Syria’s army made big advances against insurgents in mountains north of Damascus on Wednesday, Hezbollah and Syrian state media said, shoring up President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on the border zone. The gains in the crucial Qalamoun region close to Lebanon against groups including the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front follow significant defeats for al-Assad elsewhere, notably in Syria’s northwest near the Turkish border. (Al Arabiya)

SYRIA – Syrian armed groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad have rejected an invitation to U.N. consultations in Geneva, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday, dealing a blow to hopes of reviving talks to end the conflict. The letter from 30 opposition armed groups to the U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who is presiding over the consultations, accused him of abandoning his neutrality and “standing on the side of one party without the other”. (Reuters)

 

Tuesday, 14th May

HOLY SEE – The Vatican’s decision to recognize the state of Palestine in a treaty for the first time has drawn a stern response from Israel, but it may usher in a freer debate in Europe about how to proceed on the vexed Palestinian question. The Holy See has referred to Palestine since 2012, but the treaty concluded on Wednesday, which covers the Catholic Church’s activities in areas controlled by the Palestinian National Authority, marks a more formal recognition, which Vatican officials said they hoped would benefit Israeli-Palestinian ties in time. (Reuters)

SYRIA – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) issued an audio recording on Thursday that it said was by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling on supporters around the world to join the fight in Syria and Iraq or to take up arms wherever they live. (Al Arabiya)

 

Friday, 15th May 2015

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – Bosnia-Herzegovina has indicted 12 people for forming a terrorist group and traveling to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State, the state prosecutor’s office said on Friday. The indictment follows raids and arrests across the Balkan country over the past eight months, during which weapons, bombs, ammunition and specialist military equipment had been seized, the office said in a statement. (Reuters)

ISRAEL – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new rightist coalition government, hobbled by a razor-thin parliamentary majority, was sworn in late on Thursday amid wrangling within his Likud party over cabinet posts. (International Business Time)

LIBYA – At least as many migrants may be dying of hunger and thirst in the Sahara as are drowning in the Mediterranean during this year’s huge surge of human trafficking from Libya to Europe, the International Organization for Migration said on Friday. The number of people traveling through Niger’s vast desert wastes to reach North Africa and Europe could more than double this year to 100,000, the global migration body’s Niger office said. The migrants are often abused by traffickers who abandon them to die in the desert if they run out of money. (Reuters)

TURKEY – Turkey’s election board on Friday rejected accusations that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan violated the Constitution by publicly backing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of June polls, though two members opposed the ruling in a rare sign of dissent. (Today’s Zaman)