Monday, May 19, 2014

BOSNIA/SERBIA – Bosnia said on Monday that more than a quarter of its 4 million people had been affected by the worst floods to hit the Balkans in living memory, comparing the “terrifying” destruction to that of the country’s 1992-95 war. The extent of the devastation became apparent in Serbia too, as waters receded in some of the worst-hit areas to reveal homes toppled or submerged in mud, trees felled and villages strewn with the rotting corpses of livestock. The regional death toll reached more than 40, after the heaviest rainfall since records began 120 years ago caused rivers to burst their banks and triggered hundreds of landslides. (Reuters)

At present, EU aids in Serbia and Bosnia are facing flood emergency “to save human lives” but “we’re already thinking about what will be necessary in the coming days and weeks”, said EU Humanitarian Aid and International Cooperation commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, after a telephone conversation with Serbia Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. They were 14 EU countries, including Italy, which responded to the request for assistance from the two Balkan countries, sending helicopters, water pumps, boats, tents and material to purify water. On the field, 450 European rescuers are present, in addition to the coordination team relief with local authorities. (ANSAmed)

LIBYA – Tanks and shootouts were reported over the weekend as even the parliament building in Tripoli was overrun by a militia group. The situation in Tripoli degenerated on Sunday, with 80 victims reported and 140 others injured – to the seat of institutions led by a new premier for less than a fortnight. Ahmed Miitig was appointed to end chaos and anarchy but many, also among civilians, consider him to be too close to Islamic fundamentalists. (ANSAmed)

KUWAIT – Kuwait will hold parliamentary by-elections on June 26 to replace five lawmakers who quit over a row about questioning the Gulf state’s prime minister in parliament, a senior government official said late on Sunday. Some Kuwaiti media have said the resignations of the five in April and May could lead to the dissolution of the 50-member assembly. By setting a date for by-elections, the government is signaling it wants to push ahead with the current parliament. (Al Arabiya)

RUSSIA/UKRAINE – Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops deployed in regions near Ukraine to return to their home bases, the Kremlin said Monday. The move appears to indicate Putin’s intention to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine, the worst in Russia’s relations with the West since the end of the Cold War. (Al Arabiya)

 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

EU/LIBYA – The European Union has given Libya 130 million euros in aid for post-revolutionary reconstruction and transition to democracy over the past three years, the European External Action Service (EEAS), which is the Union’s diplomatic arm, made known Tuesday. The Union has so far spent 30 million euros on its EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) for Libya. (ANSAmed)

UAE – The brand-new World Free Zones Organization (WFZO), a multinational body with 14 founding member countries, was inaugurated in Dubai ceremony at the weekend. Representing free-trade zones in Africa, China, Europe, Latin America, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, the WFZO aims to standardize their business methods and analytical parameters, making them available to members, governments, businesses, and analysts. (ANSAmed)

LIBYA – Libya’s government has demanded the suspension of parliament until the next general election, as the security situation in the country goes on a downward spiral, fuelled by growing tensions between two armed groups. In a statement issued on Monday, the cabinet said it requested that the General National Council be suspended after an impending vote on the 2014 budget, a day after the legislature’s building came under attack by rebels loyal to retired general Khalifa Qassim Haftar. (Al Jazeera)

 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SPAIN – Spanish Civil Guardsmen on Wednesday escorted two boats carrying 50 migrants to Spain’s Gran Canaria island in the Canary Islands archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa. Rescue teams are searching the waters off the Gran Canaria town of Arguineguin for a migrant who fell overboard. The ones who made it have been checked by the Red Cross. Two of them were transferred to hospital for more testing, Spanish authorities said. (ANSAmed)

EGYPT – An Egyptian court has sentenced ousted President Hosni Mubarak to three years for corruption. His sons, Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, were sentenced to four years in jail on charges of stealing public funds. (Al Arabiya)

RUSSIA/CHINA – China and Russia signed a $400-billion gas supply deal on Wednesday, securing the world’s top energy user a major source of cleaner fuel and opening up a new market for Moscow as it risks losing European customers over the Ukraine crisis. The long-awaited agreement is a political triumph for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is courting partners in Asia as those in Europe and the United States seek to isolate him over Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. (Reuters)

RUSSIA/EU/UKRAINE – The European Union called Wednesday on Russia to live up to its commitment to ensure continued gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine as long as talks on their future continued. With Russian gas giant Gazprom warning it may halt shipments to Ukraine on June 3 unless its bills are paid, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso told Russian President Vladimir Putin it was “imperative” that negotiations continued. (Global Post)

VATICAN – Pope Francis on Wednesday said his upcoming trip to the Middle East would be “purely religious” and aimed mainly at improving relations with other branches of Christianity and praying for peace in the region. “It will be a purely religious trip,” the Argentine pope told some 50,000 pilgrims at a general audience in St Peter’s Square ahead of three-day trip to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories starting on Saturday. (Al Arabiya)

 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

UN/SYRIA – Russia and China vetoed on Thursday a French proposal to refer the crimes committed in Syria to the International Criminal Court, making it the fourth time both countries have blocked Western resolutions relating to the three-year conflict in Syria. The draft resolution condemns the “widespread violation” of human rights and international humanitarian law by Syrian authorities and pro-government militias as well as abuses and violations by “non-state armed groups” during the last three years. It would refer the conflict to the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal without targeting either side. The Security Council has been deeply divided over Syria, with Syrian allies Russia and China at odds with the U.S., its Western allies and other members who support the opposition. (Al Arabiya)

CYPRUS – Cyprus’ president Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu will meet on Monday, June 2, to push ahead with UN-brokered Cyprus peace talks as Cna reported. The news broke out on Tuesday after a long meeting between the divided island’s two negotiators – Andreas Mavroyiannis for the Greek Cypriot side and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Kudret Ozersay. Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides did not elaborate on the crucial leaders’ meeting which was arranged the day before the arrival of US Vice President Joe Biden on the island. (ANSAmed)

LEBANON – Lebanon’s parliament has failed in its fifth attempt to hold a session to elect the country’s new president. Thursday’s attempt to secure the needed quorum for a vote was seen as a last-ditch effort to elect a new head of state two days before President Michel Suleiman’s term expires. As in previous sessions over the past month, the vote could not be held as lawmakers allied with the militant Hezbollah group boycotted the voting for lack of agreement on a consensus president. (Al Arabiya)

 

Friday, May 23, 2014

MALI – Mali’s defense ministry said on Thursday that 30 soldiers were killed in clashes with Tuareg separatists, who claimed to have seized several towns in the north of the country. The army had launched an offensive to retake control of the separatist stronghold of Kidal after clashes erupted while Prime Minister Moussa Mara was visiting the town on Saturday. (Al Arabiya)

ISRAEL – Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu told Bloomberg in an interview Friday that after peace talks with the Palestinian failed the ”the idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground, from the center-left to the center-right”. The Premier told Bloomberg the government does not want a bi-national state nor a Palestinian-Iranian state next door. (ANSAmed)

IRAN – Iran has for the first time addressed concerns about the so-called “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear programme, a new IAEA report showed Friday. Tehran provided the UN atomic watchdog with information related to detonators that can be used for a nuclear weapon under a key November interim nuclear deal, the quarterly report, seen by AFP, showed. (Al Arabiya)