Weekly News 14 – 18 January 2019 | Mediterranean Affairs


Monday, 14 January 2019

Poland: Pawel Adamowicz, the mayor of the Polish city of Gdansk has died in hospital, a day after being stabbed on stage at a charity event. He was taken to hospital and underwent five hours of surgery at a local hospital. A 27-year-old with a criminal record has been arrested over the attack. Police believe he used a media pass to gain access to the stage. Thousands attended vigils across Polish cities on Monday evening, including in Gdansk. President Andrzej Duda described the attack as an “evil hard to imagine”. (BBC)

Saudi Arabia: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince that “every single person responsible” for the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi needs to be held accountable. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “both acknowledge that this accountability needs to take place”, Pompeo said in Riyadh following talks with the two men on Monday. (Al Jazeera)

Germany: The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) called for the country to leave the euro and the dissolution of the European Parliament in its European election manifesto on Sunday. But party delegates decided to water down a proposal calling for Berlin to exit the European Union by 2024. (Deutsche Welle)

Italy: Cesare Battisti, ex-militant, was extradited after being found in Santa Cruz de La Sierra on Saturday in an international police operation. Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who was waiting at the airport, said: “We’ve got him. And now he’ll have to rot in jail.” Local media report Battisti will be taken to Rebibbia jail, where he will serve his life sentence. It will reportedly start with six months of solitary confinement. (BBC)

Syria: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey has no problem with Kurds and aims to fight terror groups ISIL, PKK and its Syrian affiliates PYD/YPG. He added that Turkey backs Trump’s decision on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. Moreover, a statement from the Turkish presidency said Erdoğan and Donald Trump discussed the idea of a “terror-free safe zone” in Syria’s northern region.The two leaders agreed to advance bilateral economic relations. (Hurriyet)

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

UK: After Theresa May’s huge defeat over her Brexit deal, parliament and the country face an uncertain next few days. On Wednesday, a no-confidence motion in the government will be debated. If the government loses there could be a general election. But even if she defeats the motion, the prime minister’s next steps are hazardous. (The Guardian)

Russia: At least two members of the LGBT community have been killed as part of a new round of purges in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya. “I can confirm that two gay men were killed while being tortured,” said the head of the St. Petersburg-based LGBT Network, Igor Kochetkov. He said around 40 people have been detained since the latest crackdown began on Dec. 29 and that Chechen police have confiscated the detainees’ travel documents. A spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who had maintained that there are no gay people in his region, dismissed the claims as “disinformation.” (The Moscow Times)

Iran: Iranian officials said on Tuesday that a satellite launch that had been condemned by the Trump administration failed when the carrier rocket could not reach orbit. “I would have liked to make you happy with some good news, but sometimes life does not go as expected,” Iran’s minister of telecommunications, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, said in a Twitter post. (New York Times)

Yemen: Houthi rebel and Yemeni government representatives did not meet face-to-face in the port city of Hodeidah over the past week despite a recently-inked peace plan, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday. Their refusal to sit together highlights the difficulty in implementing the UN-brokered deal, reached between the government and rebels on December 13 in Rimbo, Sweden. (Al Jazeera)

Spain: The rescue mission to save a two-year-old toddler who is thought to have fallen down a 100-meter-deep borehole in Málaga in the south of Spain has entered its second day. Julen went missing at midday after his family went to the mountains for lunch on a relative’s farm. He allegedly fell into a 25-centimeter-wide bore hole. No one was able to stop the fall, according to relatives who were there. Julen’s one-and-a-half-year-old cousin, who was playing with him at the time, escaped uninjured. (El País)

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

UK: Theresa May has pledged to face down a vote of no confidence in her government, after her Brexit deal was shot down by MPs in the heaviest parliamentary defeat of the democratic era. On a day of extraordinary drama at Westminster, the House of Commons delivered a devastating verdict on the prime minister’s deal, voting against it by 432 to 202. “The house has spoken and the government will listen,” she said. “It is clear that the house does not support this deal, but tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support.” (The Guardian)

Sweden: Sweden looked set to finally resolve four months of political deadlock on Wednesday and allow Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to take a second term in office. The Left party said it would abstain in a crucial vote on Friday, clearing the way for Lofven and his patchwork coalition. (Deutsche Welle)

Syria: Four Americans were among 19 people killed in Syria on Wednesday in a suicide bombing that was claimed by the Islamic State.The attack targeted an American military convoy in the northern city of Manbij. The bombing raised new questions about Mr. Trump’s surprise decision last month to end the American ground war in Syria. Critics of the president’s plans, including members of his own party, said Mr. Trump’s claim of victory over the Islamic State may have emboldened its fighters and encouraged Wednesday’s strike. It was at least the sixth major attack by the Islamic State in less than a month and was on e of the deadliest days that the American-led coalition had suffered. (New York Times)

Libya: At least two killed and 17 wounded from both civilians and fighters after clashes between rival militias in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. The fighting on Wednesday violated a UN-brokered ceasefire which was signed four months ago. The groups involved are known as the Seventh Brigade, or Kaniyat, and a collection of factions called Tripoli Protection Force. The UN mission in Libya condemned the renewed fighting in an official statement on Twitter, adding that it “warns parties against any breach of the ceasefire agreement, compromising stability in the capital and endangering lives of civilians and their properties”. (Al Jazeera)

Thursday, 17 January 2019

UK: Theresa May has survived as prime minister after weathering a dramatic no-confidence vote in her government, but was left scrambling to strike a Brexit compromise that could secure the backing of parliament. On Wednesday night, the prime minister exhorted politicians from all parties to “put aside self-interest”, and promised to consult with MPs with “the widest possible range of views” in the coming days. May also said that she would invite Jeremy Corbyn and other party leaders for immediate talks on how to secure a Brexit deal, something she had declined to do earlier in the day, although Labour later said Corbyn would decline the invitation unless no-deal was taken off the table. (The Guardian)

Serbia: Putin gets red carpet treatment in Serbia, which once again finds itself tugged between East and West in ways hauntingly reminiscent of the Cold War. With Serbia seeking to join the European Union without damaging its ties with Moscow, this country on the eastern flank of Europe is in play all over again. (New York Times)

Greece: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday survived a confidence vote after a row over a landmark name deal with Macedonia sunk his four-year coalition. Despite the victory, the subsequent fate of Tipras’ government – and whether he will complete his four-year term which ends in September – is far from certain.The PM now faces an immediate challenge to also push through parliament the controversial name deal with neighbouring Macedonia, which has sparked protests in both countries. (France 24)

Palestine: Over the last two weeks, the Israeli army has been invading the Palestinian city of Ramallah and conducting a series of military incursions which has almost entirely escaped international attention. On Saturday, we saw this escalate when they took up position in front of the Ramallah municipality and various high-end establishments. The official justification provided by the Israeli army is that they were confiscating private security cameras that would provide footage of the apparent Palestinian assailants. What’s more likely is that Israel is flexing its muscles in order to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to yield further politically by reminding them that they can literally come into their backyard and do whatever they like. It is also part of a systematic effort to keep Palestinians in a state of uncertainty and siege, something which the Israeli regime has perfected in Gaza. (Al Jazeera)

Friday, 18 January 2019

UK: Jeremy Corbyn could face up to a dozen resignations from the Labour frontbench if the party backs a second referendum as a way out of the Brexit crisis. A string of junior shadow ministers have told the Guardian they are strongly opposed to the idea of a second referendum, which they fear would expose Labour to a vicious backlash in leave-voting constituencies. (The Guardian)

Palestine: 14 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli live fire on Friday, Palestinian media outlets reported, as thousands of Palestinians protested for yet another week at the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip. Israel has meanwhile continued to delay the transfer of funds from Qatar to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and will decide on the matter based on the nature of Friday’s protests. The leadership of Hamas has said that a violent escalation would occur if the funds are not provided. (Haaretz)

Sudan: About 2,000 mourners gathered in the Burri neighbourhood where the man, Moawia Bashir Khalil, 60, was shot on Thursday for allegedly sheltering demonstrators. According to local reports, Khalil was killed inside his home for helping unarmed protesters hide from security forces. The procession turned into a spontaneous anti-government demonstration, the latest in a series of protests against the leadership of President Omar al-Bashir. (Al Jazeera)