Weekly News 20 – 25 November 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Monday 20 November 2017

Germany: Talks on forming a coalition government in Germany have collapsed, leaving Angela Merkel facing her biggest challenge in 12 years as chancellor.
The free-market liberal FDP pulled out after four weeks of talks with Mrs Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc and the Greens.
FDP leader Christian Lindner said there was “no basis of trust” between them. (BBC)

Syria: A total of 1,000 tons of rice donated by China has been delivered to Syria’s northwestern city of Latakia, the Chinese Embassy in Damascus said in a statement Monday. The statement said the 1,000 tons of rice is part of 5,404 tons of rice China is pledging to deliver in the near future.

China has been supporting Syria in the humanitarian field since 2011. In May, China declared that it would provide food aid to the developing countries, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

In the first half of 2017, the Chinese government signed three agreements with the Syrian government to provide humanitarian aid to Syria worth over 40 million U.S. dollars. (Xinhua)

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party has summoned its MPs to discuss the future of its leader, President Robert Mugabe, after a deadline for his resignation came and went on Monday.
The deadline was set by Mr Mugabe’s own party, Zanu-PF.
The embattled leader surprised Zimbabweans on Sunday, declaring on TV that he planned to remain as president.
Zanu-PF says it backs impeachment, and proceedings could begin as soon as Tuesday when parliament meets. (BBC)

Tuesday 21 November

Iraq: A suicide car bombing has killed at least 20 people in Tuz Khurmatu, a town in Salaheddin province in northern Iraq. Dozens more were wounded in Tuesday’s attack near a marketplace in Tuz Khurmatu, south of Kirkuk and home to a mixed Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen population. (Al Jazeera)

Lebanon: Saad Hariri has returned to Beirut, more than two weeks after announcing his shock resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister from Saudi Arabia. Officials in Lebanon said they will only accept Hariri’s resignation if he delivers it on Lebanese soil.

They also alleged that he was being held hostage by authorities in Saudi Arabia, claims Hariri has rejected. (Al Jazeera)

Myanmar: Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslims has been likened to apartheid, in a report by Amnesty International.

The human rights organisation spent two years investigating the cause of the current Rohingya crisis, which has forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee over the border to Bangladesh. (Al Jazeera)

Somalia: Chinese government on Tuesday donated 2 million U.S. dollars to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help reach 15,000 young children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the southern and central regions of Somalia.

Chinese Ambassador to Somalia Qin Jian said Beijing was committed to supporting humanitarian response in Somalia to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable group, mainly children and women, are met. (Xinhua)

Syria: Attacks on a besieged rebel-held suburb of the Syrian capital intensified over the past week, killing more than 80 civilians.

The volunteer rescue group Syria Civil Defence said more than 200 air attacks have hit the Eastern Ghouta region of rural Damascus since last Tuesday. (Al Jazeera)

Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s President on Tuesday after 37 years of autocratic rule, finally succumbing to the pressure of a military takeover and the humiliation of impeachment.

The announcement came minutes into a joint session of the Zimbabwean Parliament in Harare, convened to prise the 93-year-old from power.

As the speaker read out a letter from Mugabe, lawmakers broke out in thunderous applause. The impeachment proceedings were immediately suspended. Mugabe’s successor, according to a spokesman for the ZANU-PF party, will be former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. (CNN)

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Bosnia: UN war crimes judges at The Hague are expected to deliver Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic his verdict on Wednesday, more than 20 years after the Bosnian War ended.

Mladic, the 74-year-old dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, is accused of 11 counts – including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his forces during the war in Bosnia from 1992 and 1995. (Al Jazeera)

Italy: An appeal against a ban on Silvio Berlusconi holding public office is to be heard by the European court of human rights, in a move that could potentially see Italy’s scandal-tainted former prime minister leading the country again.

The hearing on Wednesday, six years after he was forced from office, marks the beginning of an authentic political comeback for the 81-year-old, despite being plagued by a tax fraud conviction, sex scandals and allegations of corruption. (The Guardian)

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s former vice-president, whose sacking led to the shock resignation of long-time leader Robert Mugabe, could be sworn in as the new president within hours, the ruling party says. A Zanu-PF spokesman said Mr Mnangagwa, 71, would serve the remainder of Mr Mugabe’s term until elections which are due to take place by September 2018. (BBC)

Thursday 23 November 2017


Bosnia: F
ormer Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic has been jailed for life for genocide and other atrocities in the 1990s Bosnian war.

Known as the “Butcher of Bosnia”, Mladic led forces during the massacre of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) in Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo. The UN tribunal in The Hague convicted him on 10 of the 11 charges. Mladic has denied all the charges and his lawyer said he would appeal. (BBC)
EU: On average, xenophobia is not rising in European cities – according to Eurobarometer. But there are exceptions and noteworthy counter-trends, especially in Southern Europe. The countries which clearly showed higher than average xenophobic values were Italy, Turkey and Greece. In the first two countries, citizens’ opinions have clearly become more negative since the previous survey, with a growing diffusion of more hostile attitudes towards foreigners: 5 of the 10 most xenophobic cities surveyed are in Italy. (OsservatorioBalcaniCaucaso)

Iran: The British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in Tehran in April last year, is serving a five-year jail term on national security charges. There have been fears that she could be imprisoned for a further five years after comments by the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, which he later apologised for, that she was “training journalists” in the country. She will appear in court in Iran on 10 December. (The Guardian)

Myanmar: Bangladesh has signed a deal with Myanmar to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled a recent army crackdown.

A statement from the Bangladesh foreign ministry said displaced people could begin to return within two months.

The two sides say they are working on the details. The crisis has been called ethnic cleansing by the UN and the US. (BBC)

Rwanda: Rwanda has offered to give refuge to around 30,000 African migrants stuck in Libya often in enslaved conditions.

It comes in the wake of a video, released by CNN last week, showing men being auctioned off as farm workers. (BBC)

Slovenia: The prime minister of Slovenia, Miro Cerar, is facing impeachment over his support for a Syrian asylum seeker who is facing deportation.

Should the country’s rightwing opposition party be successful in their motion, Cerar, the leader of the centrist moderate party, could be dismissed from office by the Slovenian MPs, although government sources insist the prime minister has enough support in parliament to vote down the motion. (The Guardian)

Zimbabwe: Military authorities in Zimbabwe have agreed to grant the former president Robert Mugabe immunity from prosecution and told him his safety will be protected in his home country. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice-president sacked by Mugabe earlier this month, is to be sworn in as president on Friday.

Friday 24 November 2017

 Egypt: The Egyptian army says an air strike killed some of the attackers involved in Friday’s massacre when at least 235 people died in a bomb-and-gun attack on a mosque.
In a statement late on Friday, army spokesman Tamer Rifai said the Egyptian air force chased down the assailants who, according to officials, arrived in four 4WD vehicles and carried out the attack during noon prayers. The massacre occurred in Bir al-Abed, a town in North Sinai province. No group has claimed responsibility. The government declared a three-day period of mourning for the victims. (Al Jazeera)

Germany: Germany’s SPD is ready for talks to end coalition deadlock
But party leader Martin Schulz, who is opposed to alliance with Merkel’s CDU, wants members to be polled on the issue. (The Guardian)

Yemen: Aid agencies said Saudi Arabia has not fulfilled its promise to reopen humanitarian aid corridors into northern Yemen, leaving the main aid lifeline closed for tens of thousands of starving people.
Following intense pressure from western governments, Saudi Arabia agreed on Wednesday to lift a fortnight-long blockade of the port of Hodeida from noon (9am GMT) on Thursday, but in an update at lunchtime on Friday, aid agencies said no permissions for humanitarian shipments had been given. (The Guardian)

Zimbabwe: Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in as the third president of Zimbabwe since the country gained independence in 1980, taking the oath of office in front of 70,000 people in Harare’s main sports stadium.
Mnangagwa raised a loud cheer when he pledged that “free and fair elections” would be held next year as scheduled and that the “people’s voice would be heard”. (The Guardian)