Weekly News 26 – 30 June 2017

Monday, 26 June 2017

Iraq: Iraqi forces have repelled counter-attacks by so-called Islamic State (IS) as they push the group into a corner of Mosul’s Old City. IS deployed suicide bombers in different parts of the northern city but the affected areas were brought under control, Iraqi officials say. The Iraqi offensive to remove IS from the city is in its final phase.
The military has announced it has captured Faruq district on the north-western side of the Old City.
Iraqi TV said the national flag had been raised in the district, which is opposite the al-Nuri mosque and famed crooked minaret destroyed by IS. (BBC)

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Brexit: Nicola Sturgeon has abandoned her demands for a new independence referendum before the Brexit deal is signed, after her party lost a string of seats to pro-union parties in the general election.
Admitting she needed to “reset” her referendum strategy, the first minister told Holyrood she accepted there was no widespread support in Scotland for a second vote on independence before the UK leaves the EU. Sturgeon said her priority now was to focus on getting the best Brexit deal possible, leaving the timescale for staging a new referendum deliberately vague. (The Guardian)

Cybersecurity: Companies across the globe are reporting that they have been struck by a major ransomware cyber-attack. The international police organisation Interpol has said it was “closely monitoring” the situation and liaising with its member countries.
Experts suggest the malware is taking advantage of the same weaknesses used by the Wannacry attack last month. The ransomware was called Petya and the updated version Petrwrap. (BBC)

Cyprus: The Greek and Turkish leaders of divided Cyprus have headed to Switzerland to launch fresh reunification talks, described by United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide as the “most complex” round in a series of discussions to solve a decades-old dispute. Foreign ministers from the three guarantor powers, Britain, Greece and Turkey, will take part in security discussions. The goal is a peace deal uniting Cyprus under a federal umbrella and which could also define the future of Europe’s relations with Turkey. (Al Jazeera)

Netherlands: A Dutch appeals court has confirmed that the Netherlands was partly liable for the deaths of about 300 Muslims who were expelled from a Dutch UN base after the surrounding area was overrun by Bosnian Serb troops.
The ruling by the Hague Appeals Court upholds a 2014 decision that Dutch peacekeepers could have known that the men seeking refuge at the base in the village of Potocari would be murdered by Bosnian Serb troops if forced to leave – as they were.
The Muslims seeking shelter were among about 8,000 people killed in the July 1995 massacre, which the UN International Court for Justice, in a 2007 verdict, ruled a genocide. (Al Jazeera)

Italy: Fifty-one migrants are feared to have died after being abandoned days ago by human traffickers in the Niger desert while on their way to Libya, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said. On its website the IOM reports that 24 migrants from Gambia, Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast alerted the authorities after being abandoned in the Sahara.
(ANSAmed)

Syria: The US on Tuesday said it had observed preparations for a possible chemical weapons attack at a Syrian air base allegedly involved in a sarin attack in April following a warning from the White House that the Syrian regime would “pay a heavy price” for further use of the weapons. (The Guardian)

A suspected US-led coalition air raid on an ISIL-run prison in eastern Syria has killed at least 57 people, according to a monitoring group.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that most of the fatalities in the town of al-Mayadeen in Deir Az Zor province were civilian inmates.
At least 15 ISIL fighters were also killed in the raid, the UK-based monitor, which tracks developments in Syria’s long-running conflict via a network of contacts on the ground, said. (Al Jazeera)

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Migration crisis: A 3.3-billion-euro agreement to fight the causes of migration through mobilizing private investment in countries of origin has been reached between the European Council and the European Parliament. The latter will have to give its official approval through voting in the foreign affairs committee on July 1 and a plenary session on July 6.
The agreement is expected to produce a ‘lever effect’ that could lead to up to 44 billion euros in investment.
The fund aims to reduce poverty in countries of origin, create jobs and support local SMEs. (ANSAmed)

Thursday, 29 June 2017

France: A man has been arrested in Paris after trying to drive his vehicle into a crowd outside a mosque, police say. The incident took place at about 18:30 local time (16:30 GMT) in the suburb of Créteil and no-one was hurt. The man was apparently thwarted by barriers put up to protect the mosque.
The suspect’s motives remain unclear but Le Parisien newspaper reported that he was of Armenian origin and had said he wanted to avenge Islamist-linked attacks in Paris. (BBC)

Iraq: Iraqi forces have entered the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, from where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself leader of Islamic State three years ago. The full seizure of the compound, which Iraqi troops were moving through, now appears imminent and would mark a highly symbolic moment in the war against Isis.
The development means that government troops are now in the heart of the Old City – Isis’s last redoubt in Mosul – and probably within a fortnight of recapturing its entirety. The Iraqi prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, proclaimed the advance towards the mosque as “the end of the Isis state”. (The Guardian)

Italy: The Italian government is considering blocking boats carrying migrants from landing at its ports after nearly 11,000 refugees arrived on its shores in five days.
It has been reported that the government has given its ambassador to the EU, Maurizio Massari, a mandate to raise the issue formally with the European commission to seek permission for a drastic revision of EU asylum procedures. One idea being discussed is denying docking privileges to boats not carrying Italian flags that seek to land in Italian ports, mainly in Sicily or Calabria. (The Guardian)
Qatar: Qatar is prepared to work together with other Gulf countries blockading it in order to reach a resolution to a major diplomatic crisis, its foreign minister has said, stressing, however, that his country will not discuss any measures that impinge on its sovereignty. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: US-backed forces say they have fully encircled Islamic State fighters in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, say they have now sealed off escape routes to the south. (BBC)

Friday, 30 June 2017

France: French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has been placed under formal investigation over an alleged European parliament funding scandal.
The allegations were passed to French investigators who have opened a case.
The parliament suspects some €5m (£4m; $5.4m) went to assistants of Ms Le Pen’s National Front (FN) who were not working for MEPs but were actually engaged in FN party work in France.
The National Front has denied the allegations. (BBC)

Germany: A clear majority of German MPs have voted to legalise same-sex marriage, days after Chancellor Angela Merkel dropped her opposition to a vote.
The reform grants couples now limited to civil unions full marital rights, and allows them to adopt children.
Mrs Merkel’s political opponents were strongly in favour. But the chancellor, who signalled her backing for a free vote only on Monday, voted against.

The bill was backed by 393 lawmakers, 226 voted against and four abstained.
The German legal code will now read: “Marriage is entered into for life by two people of different or the same sex”. (BBC)

Qatar: Qatar’s ministry of defence has announced the arrival of a new group of Turkish armed forces to the military base where Turkey began its training mission last week.
The forces are set to take part in joint exercises within the framework of a defence agreement signed between Doha and Ankara aimed at raising Qatar’s defence capabilities, supporting “counter-terror” efforts, and maintaining security and stability in the region. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says more than 440,000 internally displaced Syrians and about 31,000 of those who fled abroad have now come back.
Most of them have returned to Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus with the aim of checking on their properties and finding out about family members. (BBC)