Weekly News 16 – 20 July 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs
Monday 16 July 2018
EU: China and the European Union pledged to work more closely to defend the global trading system on Monday, although both sides said they were not seeking a coalition to counter Washington. Leaders met at the annual China-EU summit in Beijing. Beijing and Brussels issued a joint statement after the summit, saying they were “strongly” committed to resisting protectionism and unilateralism and “firmly supported” the rules-based multilateral trading system centred on the World Trade Organisation. (South China Morning Post)
Helsinki summit: President of United States Donald Trump met his russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday morning in which is considered a historical meeting. On Monday the US and Russian presidents held nearly two hours of one-on-one talks without their advisers in the Finnish capital Helsinki. At a news conference afterwards, Mr Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to allegations of meddling in the 2016 presidential election. US President Donald Trump has hit back after facing fierce criticism over his summit with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. He said the meeting had gone “even better” than the recent Nato summit. After talks with Mr Putin, he contradicted his own intelligence agencies by saying he could not see any reason why Russia would meddle in the 2016 US election that he won. The remarks have angered even some of his supporters. (BBC)
Lebanon: The Penal Appeal Court in Mount Lebanon headed by Judge Randa Kfoury ruled that homosexuality is not a crime on July 12. This decision supports the ruling of Judge Rabih Maalouf (January 26, 2017) which prevents the prosecution of people who violate Penal Code Article 534. Six days after Judge Maalouf’s ruling, the State Prosecution of Appeals requested to reverse the decision. (the961.com)
Tuesday 17 July 2018
Egypt: Egypt’s parliament has passed a controversial law that will allow the state to regulate social media users. Under the law, a personal social media account, blog or website with more than 5,000 followers could be considered a media outlet and subject to media law. Critics say the legislation will increase the authorities’ ability to crack down on free speech and dissent. Egypt’s parliament has passed a controversial law that will allow the state to regulate social media users. Under the law, a personal social media account, blog or website with more than 5,000 followers could be considered a media outlet and subject to media law. Critics say the legislation will increase the authorities’ ability to crack down on free speech and dissent. (BBC)
EU: Japan and the European Union have signed a wide-ranging free trade deal, sending a “clear message” against US President Donald Trump’s protectionist moves without mentioning his name. European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker inked the agreement, together with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at a ceremony in Tokyo. The pact creates the world’s largest open economic area amid fears that a trade war between the US and China will diminish the role of free trade in the global economic order. The European Union and Japan have signed one of the world’s biggest free trade deals, covering nearly a third of the world’s GDP and 600 million people.
One of the biggest EU exports to Japan is dairy goods, while cars are one of Japan’s biggest exports. (BBC)
Migration crisis: Libya let a woman and child aboard a drifting migrant boat die, NGO Proactiva Open Arms said Tuesday, publishing a photo of the two bodies in the sea, amid the wreckage of the boat. “The Libyan coast guard said it intercepted a boat with 158 people aboard supplying medical and humanitarian assistance,” said NGO founder Oscar Camps. “But they didn’t say they left two women and a child aboard and sank the ship because they didn’t want to board the motor launches”.
Interior ministry sources said that the NGO was peddling “fake news”. The sources said that “in the next few hours” the ministry will publish “the version of third-party observers who deny the news that the Libyans failed to supply assistance” (ANSA)
Gaza Strip: Israel has further tightened its blockade on the Gaza Strip, preventing gas and fuel deliveries through its only commercial crossing with the Palestinian besieged enclave a week after Israeli authorities announced the closure of the crossing.
The Kerem Shalom crossing, known to Palestinians as Karem Abu Salem, was shut down on July 9 and initially, only items deemed as “humanitarian” would be allowed to enter Gaza, such as food, hygiene and medical supplies, fuel, animal feed and livestock.
However, the defence ministry announced late on Monday that fuel and gas deliveries will also be suspended, and that the crossing will remain open only for food and medicine on a case-by-case basis. (Al Jazeera)
Syria: Scores of displaced Syrians were turned away by the Israeli army units on Tuesday as they attempted to approach the border fence along the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
They stopped some 200 metres away, before an Israeli soldier told them to leave.
The group is among tens of thousands of Syrians who have arrived near the frontier over the past month following renewed fighting along the country’s southern Deraa and Quneitra provinces. Israel has given humanitarian aid to IDPs in encampments close to a 1974 Israeli-Syrian disengagement line on the Golan but has said they would not be allowed to cross into Israeli-held territory.
A witness on the Syrian side of the frontier said people were seeking shelter wherever they could as the offensive drew closer to their location. (Al Jazeera)
UK: Brexit campaign group Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 and referred to the police after an Electoral Commission probe said it broke electoral law. The watchdog said it exceeded its £7m spending limit by funnelling £675,315 through pro-Brexit youth group BeLeave. The founder of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, has been fined £20,000 and referred to the police, along with Vote Leave official David Halsall. Vote Leave said the “wholly inaccurate” report was politically motivated. (BBC)
Wednesday 18 July 2018
Hungary: Hungary’s right-wing government is withdrawing from a United Nations pact on migration, saying the global deal encourages movements of people which are “dangerous for the world”. After 18 months of negotiations, the draft for the Global Compact for Migration was approved on Friday by 191 UN member nations, but not the United States, which withdrew in December saying it was “inconsistent” with its “immigration and refugee policies”. The text of the new treaty aims to create a worldwide framework for managing migration.
The pact is billed as the first international document on managing migration. It lays out 23 objectives to open up legal migration and better manage flows of people as the number on the move worldwide has increased to about 250 million. (Al Jazeera)
Macedonia: The European Union says it has struck a deal with Macedonia to allow border guards to be deployed if the non-EU Balkan state faces “sudden migratory challenges”.
The announcement came on Wednesday as Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU migration commissioner, and Macedonian Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski initialled the deal for sending guards from the bloc to landlocked Macedonia and conducting joint operations.
The deal will be signed formally at a later date once it clears legal hurdles and is endorsed by the European Parliament, said the Commission, the EU’s executive arm. (Al Jazeera)
Thursday 19 July 2018
Israel: One rocket was fired at Israel from Gaza, the Israeli army reported on Thursday, after the army said it attacked Palestinians launching incendiary balloons toward Israel. A statement said that the strike took place near a Hamas position in the southern Gaza Strip, near the border with Israel. The IDF said it attacked a Hamas observation point in southern Israel. One person was killed and three others wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry reported. Egyptian and Palestinian sources told Haaretz on Tuesday that Hamas is inclined to accept an agreement calling for a halt to the launching of the incendiary devices in exchange for Israel revoking its decision this week to stop fuel shipments into the Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, through Sunday. (Haaretz)
Israel: Israel passed early Thursday a controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and asserts that “the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people,” sparking outrage from Israel’s Arab community and provoking concern from the international community.
62 lawmakers in Israel’s Knesset voted in favor of the legislation and 55 opposed it. Two lawmakers abstained. The nation-state law also includes clauses stating that a “united Jerusalem” is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country’s official language. (Haaretz)
Russian spy poisoning: Police are believed to have identified the suspected perpetrators of the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in March, reports say. Several Russians were thought to be involved in the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, sources told the Press Association. They are believed to have been identified through CCTV, cross-checked with border entry data. A source also said to have knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Thursday that two suspects had been identified and that the pair had left the UK after the attack. The suspects have not been named. (BBC)
Spain: Spain’s supreme court has withdrawn its European Arrest Warrants against former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and five of his aides who remain abroad.
A German court ruled earlier that Mr Puigdemont could not be extradited to face the Spanish charge of rebellion over Catalonia’s push for independence. Rebellion is the most serious charge levelled against Mr Puigdemont. But the charges against the six Catalan separatists remain, meaning they still face arrest if they return to Spain. (BBC)
Turkey: Turkey lifted its two-year-old state of emergency as of Thursday 1 a.m. local time (2200 GMT Wednesday). The government declared a state of emergency for the first time on July 20, 2016 following a deadly coup attempt orchestrated by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
To enact a state of emergency, the government must foresee serious indications of widespread violence which may interfere with the democratic environment or basic constitutional rights and freedoms of its citizens. (YeniSafak)
UK: The UK’s new Brexit Secretary has offered to meet Michel Barnier throughout August to “intensify” talks and “get some energy” into them. Dominic Raab said his first meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator in Brussels had been “constructive”. He replaced David Davis, who quit in protest at Theresa May’s trade policy. It comes as the IMF says some EU countries will suffer significant economic damage if the UK leaves without a trade deal. Both the UK and EU are stepping up preparations for a “no deal” Brexit. (BBC)
Friday 20 July 2018
Israel: Israel has attacked military targets in the Gaza Strip, after its soldiers came under gunfire at the border.
The Israeli military announced that one soldier had died from his wounds, the first in the most recent clashes. Gaza officials said four Palestinians were killed in the strikes, three of them members of militant group Hamas.
They said a fourth Palestinian was shot dead during protests along the border. Hamas, who run Gaza, later said a ceasefire had been agreed with Israel. (BBC)
Israel: Protesters say they’ll continue to fly kites and balloons carrying petrol bombs and burning rags across the border until Israel lifts its twelve-year siege of Gaza.
Israel says fires started by the protesters have destroyed large areas of farmland and crops.
The Israeli army has reportedly been ordered to prepare for a military offensive in Gaza if burning balloons and kites continue to be launched from the area. (Al Jazeera)
Turkey: Turkey and the Netherlands have agreed to restore relations strained after a diplomatic row last year. In a joint statement on Friday, the two countries stated their “readiness for normalisation” and that the countries are resuming full diplomatic ties.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok met on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels last week. (Al Jazeera)