Weekly News 4 – 8 December 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Monday 4 December 2017

Israel: Opposition is growing in the Arab world to an expected announcement by Donald Trump that the US will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Reports say the president will make the statement this week but will further delay acting on a campaign pledge to move the US embassy to the city.The head of the Arab League, Jordan and the Palestinian president have warned of the consequences of a declaration. A deadline for Donald Trump to sign a waiver delaying the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem expires on Monday. Every president, including Mr Trump, has signed the waiver every six months since US Congress passed an act in 1995 calling for the embassy to be moved. (BBC)

Malta: Police in Malta have arrested 10 Maltese nationals in connection with the car bomb murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told reporters that police operations were under way in the town of Marsa, and the Bugibba and Zebbug areas. Mr Muscat said some of the detainees were already known to the police while others had criminal records. When asked if the eight arrested had participated in the murder, or if they also included the mastermind, Mr Muscat would not comment. (BBC)

UK: There are increasing indications that an agreement on the first phase of Brexit talks is about to be struck. Theresa May is meeting EU figures in an attempt to finalise the deal ahead of a summit in 10 days’ time. The EU says it will only recommend the start of talks about future trade arrangements when it deems “sufficient progress” has been made on three issues – the status of expat citizens, the “divorce” bill and the Northern Ireland border. The UK has been set a deadline of this week to come forward with an improved offer on them, and hopes that the go ahead for future talks will then be given at an EU leaders’ summit on 14-15 December. (BBC)

Yemen: Reports from Yemen say ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been killed in fighting with his former allies. Media controlled by the rebel Houthi movement quoted officials as declaring the “end of the crisis of the treason militia and the killing of its leader”. Until last week, Mr Saleh’s supporters had been fighting alongside the Houthis in a war against Yemen’s current president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. (BBC)

Tuesday 05 December 2017

Spain: Spain’s Supreme Court has withdrawn an international arrest warrant for the former regional president of Catalonia.
Carles Puigdemont, who is currently in Belgium – is still facing charges of sedition in Spain.
He is hoping that separatist parties will increase their majority in the regional parliament in elections later this month. (Al Jazeera)

Yemen: Houthi rebels in Yemen have held dozens of journalists captive for days at a television station in the capital and a media watchdog has demanded their immediate release.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the rebels launched rocket-propelled grenades at the headquarters of the Yemen Al Youm TV channel in Sanaa on Saturday before storming the station and holding hostage 41 employees inside. (Al Jazeera)

Wednesday 06 December 2017

Malta: Three Maltese men have been charged for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the investigative journalist who was killed by a car bomb last month. The three suspects include two brothers, George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vincent Muscat. The suspects were also charged with criminal use of explosives, being involved in organised crime, and criminal conspiracy. All three pleaded not guilty to the charges at a hearing late on Tuesday. They were were among ten people who were arrested in dawn raids on Monday morning in connection to the police’s investigation into the killing. (The Guardian)

Israel: Donald Trump will declare formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday, the White House has said, breaking with years of precedent and potentially leading to unpredictable consequences for the Middle East.

The region is braced for the prospect of unrest in anticipation of the declaration, due at 1pm in Washington, and US embassies around the world have been advised by the state department to bolster their security. Trump will base his decision on ancient history and current political realities that the Israeli legislature and many government offices are in Jerusalem. He will also order the state department to start the process of planning and building a new US embassy in Jerusalem, but White House officials said that process would take at least three years. (The Guardian)

Paradise Paper: The EU has named and shamed 17 countries in its first ever tax haven blacklist and put a further 47 on notice, including British overseas territories and the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. The blacklist includes South Korea, Mongolia, Namibia, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Guam, the US territory in the Pacific, also features on the blacklist, in a move that is unlikely to endear Brussels to Donald Trump’s White House.

The EU said the countries failed to match up to international standards and had not offered sufficient commitments that they would change their ways during talks in the months leading up to publication of the list. (The Guardian)

Russia: Russia’s Vladimir Putin has said he will seek another term as president in next year’s election.
He made the announcement in a speech to workers at a car factory in the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod.
Mr Putin has been in power since 2000, either as president or prime minister. If he wins the March election he will be eligible to serve until 2024.
Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been formally barred from standing because he was found guilty of embezzlement – a charge he claims was politically motivated. (BBC)

Spain: A Spanish judge has lifted the extradition order on the former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and four former cabinet members who fled to Belgium to avoid charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

In a surprise move as campaigning officially began for this month’s Catalan election, supreme court judge Pablo Llarena withdrew European arrest warrants for the five, but national warrants still stand – meaning they would be likely to face arrest if they chose to return to Spain. (The Guardian)

Thursday 07 December 2017

Israel: The US president said on Wednesday he had “judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians”.

He said he was directing the US state department to begin preparations to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Traditional US allies are among a growing chorus condemning President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Arab and the wider Muslim world condemned Mr Trump’s announcement. (BBC)

UK: Theresa May is under increasing pressure from all sides to break the impasse in the Brexit talks.

The DUP says there is “work to be done” if it is to agree to plans for the future of the border with Ireland. At a summit next week, European leaders will decide whether enough progress has been made in the negotiations on Ireland, the UK’s “divorce bill” and citizens’ rights so far to open trade talks. (BBC)

Friday 08 December 2017

Israel:Violence has flared between Israeli forces and Palestinians protesting at Donald Trump’s contentious recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank and over the Israeli-Gaza border, where one Palestinian was killed. Television pictures from Bethlehem showed water cannon or so-called skunk water being used against stone-throwing protesters. (BBC) 

UK – Brexit: PM Theresa May has struck a last-minute deal with the EU in a bid to move Brexit talks on to the next phase.
There will be no “hard border” with Ireland; and the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU will be protected.
The so-called “divorce bill” will amount to between £35bn and £39bn, Downing Street says.
The European Commission president said it was a “breakthrough” and he was confident EU leaders will approve it. (BBC)