Monday, 18th May 2015

EUROPEAN UNION – European foreign and defense ministers agreed on Monday to use naval forces to intercept and disrupt ships used by smugglers of migrants from North Africa, a far more assertive attempt to combat the swelling migration crisis that has led to thousands of deaths at sea. (The New York Times)

SYRIA – The Islamic State’s success Sunday in capturing the city of Ramadi, only 110 kilometers (about 70 miles) from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has brought in its wake a number of terrifying forecasts concerning the organization’s continued advance. Despite the importance of Ramadi, which is the capital of Anbar. (Haaretz)

Thursday, 19th May 2015

ISRAEL – A senior Israeli official took a swipe at the United States on Tuesday over Iran’s reported purchase of second-hand civilian aircraft, saying the acquisition violated international sanctions and went ahead despite a tip-off from Israel. Iranian Transport Minister Abbas Akhoondi was quoted on May 11 by the Iranian Students News Agency as saying Tehran bought 15 used commercial planes in the last three months. He did not say who sold them or how they had been acquired. A long-standing ban on the export of aircraft spare parts to Iran was eased under an interim nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in late 2013, but the sanctions regime continues to restrict sales of planes. (Reuters)

PALESTINE – The Middle East is threatened by “a vicious tide of terror and extremism” amid stalled peace negotiations and growing regional tensions, a United Nations envoy on the region warned today. “The inability to respond, for over 60 years, both on the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state and to Israel’s quest for security, has fuelled a situation that is becoming more dangerous by the day”, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council this afternoon. (U.N. News Centre)

 

Wednesday, 20th May 2015

ISRAEL – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his commitment on Wednesday to a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after backtracking on that pledge during a heated campaign for a March election. Speaking as he met with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on her first visit to the region, and a week after his new government took office, Netanyahu said: “We want a peace that would end the conflict once and for all […] I don’t support a one-state solution, I don’t believe that’s a solution at all, I support the vision of two states for two peoples”. (Reuters)

LIBYA – Fresh elections are the only way to end conflict in Libya where two governments and parliaments are competing for power and the country’s oil wealth, an influential Islamist supporter of a self-declared government in Tripoli said. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni’s internationally recognized government and elected parliament have operated out of eastern Libya since a rival armed faction called Libya Dawn took over Tripoli in August and set up its own government. The United Nations has been hosting talks to persuade the rival factions to form a national government, four years after the civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. (Reuters)

SYRIA – Syria hopes to receive a new credit line from Iran worth around $1 billion, which it will use to buy basic goods, an assistant to Syria’s minister of economy and foreign trade said on Wednesday. The comments come a day after Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and reiterated backing of Tehran for the Syrian government. (Al Arabiya)

 

Tuesday, 21st May 2015

EGYPT – When Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi dispatched fighter jets this year against ISIS targets in Libya in retaliation for the beheading of 21 Copts, he sent a powerful message to his country’s Christian minority. Copts have long complained of discrimination under successive Egyptian leaders and Sisi’s actions suggested he would deliver on promises of being an inclusive president who could unite the country after years of political turmoil. However, striking out at extremists abroad might prove easier than reining in radicals at home. (The Daily Star)

FRANCE – Ministers from members of the coalition fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria will meet in Paris on June 2 to plot strategy including how to reverse recent losses, French officials said on Wednesday. After taking the city of Ramadi earlier this week, Islamic State militants are seeking to consolidate gains in the vast Iraqi desert province of Anbar, where only small pockets of territory remain under government control. (Herald Globe)

SYRIA – The Syrian Army soldier had long served in Palmyra, but he was on leave when he heard that Islamic State militants had attacked a village northeast of the desert city, killing dozens of his comrades. He sent frantic text messages, trying to reach them. No one answered. (The New York Times)

TUNISIA – Barack Obama has elevated Tunisia to new allied status, promising financial and security assistance to ensure the North African country’s transition to democracy remains a success. Obama announced in an Oval Office meeting with newly elected Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi on Thursday that he intends to designate his country as a major non-NATO ally of the U.S. The special status has been granted to only a few countries. (Al Jazeera)

TURKEY – Turkey’s state intelligence agency helped deliver arms to parts of Syria under Islamist rebel control during late 2013 and early 2014, according to a prosecutor and court testimony from gendarmerie officers seen by Reuters. The witness testimony contradicts Turkey’s denials that it sent arms to Syrian rebels and, by extension, contributed to the rise of Islamic State, now a major concern for the NATO member. (Reuters)

 

Friday, 22nd May 2015

ISRAEL – A senior U.S. official is in Israel to discuss the possibility of a compromise that would keep alive the idea of someday banning nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, U.S. officials and U.N. diplomats said on Thursday. Friday is the final day of a month-long review conference on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at United Nations headquarters in New York. The conference has bogged down on several issues, above all the failure to convene a planned 2012 conference on Middle East weapons of mass destruction ban. (The Jerusalem Post)

ITALY – A Moroccan man supplied arms for a March attack on Tunisia’s Bardo Museum and then boarded a migrant boat for Italy, where he is now held, a Tunisian government official said on Friday. Tunisian authorities have not yet formally notified Italian prosecutors, who arrested 22-year-old Abdelmajid Touil on an international warrant earlier this week, what he was suspected of doing or when. Touil denies any involvement in the attack by Islamist militants. That left Italian investigators in the dark about the supposed timeline of the Moroccan’s involvement in the March assault, and local media questioned whether Touil could have participated if he was in Italy at the time. (The Daily Star)

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)

SYRIA – In recent weeks, the Assad regime has absorbed a series of losses from an assortment of rebel groups in Syria, leading some observers to wonder if, once again, the Alawite leadership might finally collapse. President Bashar Assad’s implacable allies, Iran and Hezbollah, have not sat on the sidelines waiting to see what happens, instead continuing to inject cash, weapons, military advisers and in Hezbollah’s case, significant amounts of ground forces, to assist the Assad forces in their quest to take back lands lost to rebels. (The Jerusalem Post)

Islamic State fighters tightened their grip on the historic Syrian city of Palmyra on Thursday and overran Iraqi government defenses east of Ramadi, the provincial capital that they seized five days earlier. The twin successes not only pile pressure on Damascus and Baghdad but also throw doubt on a U.S. strategy of relying almost exclusively on air strikes to support the fight against Islamic State. U.S. and coalition forces had conducted 18 air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq since Wednesday, the U.S. military said. (Reuters)

TURKEY – Turkish ruling AK Party may lose its parliamentary majority in a June 7 election and be forced to form either a coalition or a minority government, according to a poll privately commissioned by Turkish business and cited in newspapers on Friday. The poll by research firm Konda showed support for the AK Party dropping to 40.5% from 49.8% at the last general election in 2011, according to bankers who have seen the research and highlights published by Turkish newspapers. (Haaretz)