Weekly News 11 – 16 December 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Monday, 11 December 2017

France: France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, awards millions of euros to 18 American scientists to relocate in effort to counter Donald Trump on the climate change front. (The Guardian)

Migration crisis: Refugees and migrants attempting to cross from Serbia into neighbouring European Union countries have endured illegal deportations and widespread police violence, including beatings and electric shocks, according to a report by a watchdog group. (Al Jazeera)

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia will lift a 35-year ban on cinemas and allow films to be screened as early as next year.

On Monday, the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information approved licences for those wishing to open cinemas in the kingdom. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a surprise visit to a Russian base in Syria and ordered his troops to start withdrawing from the war-torn country.

Syrian state TV reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Putin at Khmeimim Air Base, southeast of Latakia, on Monday morning. Putin made the stop in Syria on his way to Egypt, where he met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi later on Monday. (Al Jazeera)

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Migration crisis: European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of refugees and migrants in Libya, Amnesty International has alleged.

In an effort to stem migration, the EU is actively supporting a “system of abuse and exploitation” on Libyan shores, the group said in a report.

EU funds are going to authorities working with militias and people smugglers, the report says. (BBC)

Migration crisis: The EU could scrap a divisive scheme that compels member states to accept quotas of refugees, one of the bloc’s most senior leaders will say this week.

The president of the European council, Donald Tusk, will tell EU leaders at a summit on Thursday that mandatory quotas have been divisive and ineffective, in a clear sign that he is ready to abandon the policy that has created bitter splits across the continent.

Tusk will set a six-month deadline for EU leaders to reach unanimous agreement on reforms to the European asylum system, but will propose alternatives if there is no consensus. (The Guardian)

Israel: Fawzi al-Junaidi, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, shown in a photo that has been roundly condemned as symbolising the Israeli army’s use of excessive force, has been accused of throwing stones at a group of armed Israeli soldiers. The child would face formal charges in front of an Israeli military court on Wednesday, following an initial hearing on Monday. (Al Jazeera)

UK: David Davis’s claim that the UK’s concessions in an agreement to move on the Brexit negotiations were merely a statement of intent has damaged trust and will see a hardening of positions in Brussels, the European parliament’s coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, has said. The member states will now agree a tougher wording in their guidelines about the next stage of the talks, due to be signed off at a summit of leaders on Friday, Verhofstadt said. EU ministers are meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the text to be put before leaders on Friday morning. (The Guardian)

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Iran: The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has accused Iran of supplying Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement with missiles to attack Saudi Arabia.

Iran denies arming the Houthi movement, which has fought a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government since 2015. Mrs Haley also said the US would build an international coalition to push back against Iran, which she said was “fanning the flames” of conflict in the Middle East. She said this would include diplomatic measures.  (BBC)

Iraq: Iraq says it has hanged, in a mass execution, 38 jihadist militants convicted of terrorism offences.
The justice ministry said they were all members of so-called Islamic State (IS).
The death sentences were carried out in a prison in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
However, international advocacy groups have repeatedly criticised Iraq’s use of the death penalty and how terrorism charges are brought. (BBC)

Friday, 15 December 2017

Austria: Austria’s far-right Freedom Party has reached a deal with the conservative People’s Party on creating a new coalition government.
The agreement will make 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz the new chancellor and Europe’s youngest leader. (The Independent)

Palestine: Three Palestinians have died in Gaza during clashes with Israeli troops near the border, Palestinian officials say.
More than 100 were hurt in Gaza and the occupied West Bank amid fresh protests over Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In the West Bank, an Israeli policeman was wounded in a Palestinian knife-attack. The attacker was shot and died in hospital later. Clashes erupted following Muslim Friday prayers, as Palestinian demonstrators lit tyres and threw stones at Israeli troops, who fired tear gas and live rounds across the West Bank and over the border with the Gaza Strip.Friday’s deaths bring to eight the number of Palestinians killed in an escalation of violence with Israel since Mr Trump’s declaration on 6 December.  (BBC)

Russia: Russia’s ex-economics minister, Alexei Ulyukayev, has been found guilty of accepting a bribe and sentenced to eight years in a prison colony, as well as being fined $2m. Mr Ulyukayev was responsible for the Russian economy until a sting operation before dawn on 15 November last year. His downfall was orchestrated by state-owned oil company Rosneft’s chief, Igor Sechin, a powerful associate of Vladimir Putin. After inviting the former minister to his offices, he handed him a basket of sausages and another locked bag, containing $2m. Mr Ulyukayev was stopped by security agents waiting outside, and became the first cabinet minister to be arrested since Stalin’s henchman Lavrenty Beria in 1953. (The Independent)

Syria:The United States has urged the Syrian government to “participate fully” in negotiations with the opposition, while a Syrian official blamed opposition preconditions for yet another failed round of talks in Geneva.
Referring to the negotiations, which ended in the Swiss city on Thursday without any results, the US state department commended the Syrian opposition’s “constructive participation”, which it said stood in contrast to the “obstructionism and procrastination” of the government delegation. (Al Jazeera)

Turkey: Turkey will open an embassy in east Jerusalem once the world recognises an independent Palestinian state, the country’s foreign minister has said. Mevlut Cavusoglu said there was “serious determination” among countries that have not yet recognised Palestine to do so. (The Independent)

UK: EU leaders have agreed to move Brexit talks on to the second phase but called for “further clarity” from the UK about the future relationship it wants.
The first issue to be discussed, early next year, will be the details of an expected two-year transition period after the UK’s exit in March 2019.
Talks on trade and security cooperation are set to follow in March. (BBC)