Weekly News 22 – 26 January 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs


Monday, 22 January 2018

UK: Britain’s ability to respond to military threats from Russia will be “eroded” without further investment, the head of the Army has said. Russian hostility could come sooner than expected and Britain must prepare to “fight the war we might have to fight”, General Sir Nick Carter added. The speech – approved by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson – comes amid speculation of potential defence cuts. (BBC)

World: More than 80 percent of the wealth created over the past year went to the richest 1 percent of the world’s population, while nothing went to the bottom half, according to a new report by charity Oxfam.(Oxfam press release)

Israel: In a speech to the Israeli parliament, US Vice President Mike Pence has confirmed the US Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem by the end of next year. The shift in US policy has stoked Palestinian anger and fuelled international concern. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital – and, as such, President Trump has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. United States Embassy will open before the end of next year,” said the vice president. (Euronews)

Palestine: Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is asking the European Union to formally recognise the state of Palestine. Abbas made the request during a press briefing with the EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini. “We pay all due respect to the positions of European Union,we trully consider the EU as a true partner and friend,” Abbas said. “Therefore, we call on its member states to swiftly recognise the state of Palestine, and we confirm that there is no contradiction between recognition and a resumption of negotiations”. Abbas wants Brussels to recognise the state of Palestine along 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. (Euronews)

Yemen: Saudi-led coalition aircraft on Monday struck a building in northern Yemen that housed a clinic, killing seven people, five of them children, residents said, the latest in a series of raids that have drawn international condemnation. (Reuters)

Spain: Fugitive Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont has avoided arrest despite a failed attempt by Spanish prosecutors to reactive an international arrest warrant. Spain’s Supreme Court rejected the request after the former president of Catalonia flew to Denmark from Belgium. (The telegraph)

Davos: Global growth will continue to strengthen this year and next, but a buildup of debt poses risks and too many people are left out of the recovery, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on Monday. n the first day of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the IMF revised its global growth forecasts upwards, to 3.9 percent in 2018 and 2019, saying sweeping U.S. tax cuts were likely to boost investment in the world’s largest economy and help its main trading partners. (Euronews)

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

France: It’s the worst crisis to hit the French prison system in 25 years, as a strike by wardens enters its ninth day. Officers are protesting over staff levels and violence inside the country’s overcrowded jails. Unions have rejected a government proposal to employ 100 extra guards this year and a further 1,000 over the next four years. (Euronews)

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Egypt: Egyptian authorities have detained the last major challenger to the re-election of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: Sami Anan, the former military chief of staff. Anan, who had announced his candidacy just last week, was taken to the Military Prosecutor’s office in Cairo, according to his son and one of his lawyers, who were waiting outside the building. The army says Anan broke the law by running for office without permission. He’s the latest candidate to drop out of the race amid claims of intimidation by authorities. (Euronews)

Germany: A politician for Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, which campaigns on an anti-Muslim ticket, has converted to Islam and left the party, a spokesman has confirmed. Arthur Wagner, a leading member of the party in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, said he would not comment on his reason for leaving the party, but confirmed to a Berlin daily that he had converted to Islam and that he had renounced his party membership on 11 January. “The party has no problem with it,” said Daniel Friese, a spokesman for the Brandenburg branch of the AfD. Being a Muslim was no barrier to being a member of the party, he said, despite the fact that among the party’s campaign slogans before September’s general election were “Islam has no place in Germany” and “Against the Islamisation of Germany”. (The Guardian)

Afghanistan: Attackers have detonated explosives before storming the offices of the Save the Children charity in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. At least two people have been killed and 12 injured, officials say. It is believed about 50 staff were in the building at the time. The Islamic State group has said three of its fighters are behind the attack, which is said to have now ended. Save the Children has temporarily suspended all of its Afghan programmes. (BBC)

Libya: At least 33 people have been killed in a double car bombing in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, according to officials. Tuesday’s first bomb went off outside Salmani neighbourhood’s Bait Radwan mosque, frequented by the fighters of Brigade 210 from eastern Libyan security forces, the Libya Observer reported. The second explosion occurred minutes later close to the first blast site after security and health officials arrived. Ahmed al-Fituri, chief of a special investigation unit attached to the general command of east Libyan security forces, was killed in the first explosion, Libya Observer cited military sources as saying. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: Turkey claims to have killed at least 260 Syrian Kurdish fighters in it’s “Olive Branch” operation into neighbouring northwest Syria. The offensive into the Kurdish-dominated Afrin region has entered its fifth day and will continue, Ankara says until all “terrorists are fully eliminated”. The US which supports the Kurdish YPG forces in its fight against Islamic State has called for restraint. (Euronews).

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Czech Republic: The Czech Republic votes on Friday and Saturday in a tight presidential run-off between two very different candidates. Seeking re-election is Russia-friendly, anti-immigration political veteran Milos Zeman, who won the first round of voting two weeks ago. Opinion polls now put him neck and neck with Jiri Drahos, a chemistry professor and former head of the Academy of Sciences, who has taken a strongly pro-European stance. (Euronews)

Palestine: The Trump administration is doubling down on its threat to cut off aid to the Palestinians if they fail to “sit down and negotiate peace,” even as it proceeds with contentious plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. President Donald Trump said Thursday that U.S. aid to the Palestinians is on the line if their leaders boycott his administration’s efforts to negotiate a peace plan, insisting that the question of Jerusalem’s status is no longer up for discussion. (Euronews)

Davos: President Donald Trump campaigned against globalism and free trade deals he said penalized the United States, and took office pledging to ‘put America first.’ But on Thursday morning, after arriving in Davos for the World Economic Forum, he’ll become the first sitting president to attend the annual gathering of the global economic elite in nearly 20 years. (CNBC)

EU:  Brussels has committed €578m to fund an electricity link between Spain to France through the Bay of Biscay, which will nearly double capacity to share excess power. The largest-ever energy grant from the Connecting Europe Facility will be “decisive” in building the link that will run 280 km of offshore cable and underground connections in France that will add 2,200MW of capacity between the neighbours. (Financial Times)

Friday, 26 January 2018

Syria: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkish forces would sweep Kurdish fighters from the Syrian border and could push all the way east to the frontier with Iraq – risking a possible confrontation with US forces allied to the Kurds. (France 24)

Germany: Formal coalition talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU); their sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU); and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) started on Friday. The talks are aimed at forming what is commonly referred to as a grand coalition, which would bring together Germany’s two largest parties to form a government. (Deutsche Welle)