Weekly News 5 November – 9 November 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs


Monday, 5 November 2018

US vs. Iran: The US unleashed its “toughest ever” sanctions against Iran on Monday, a move that has already sparked mass protests in the oil-rich nation. The Trump administration reinstated all sanctions removed under the 2015 nuclear deal, targeting both Iran and states that trade with it. They will hit oil exports, shipping and banks – all core parts of the economy. Thousands of Iranians chanting “Death to America” rallied on Sunday, rejecting calls for talks. (BBC)

EU: Eurozone finance ministers urged Italy on Monday (5 November) to reverse course on its rule-breaking budget amid fears of market turmoil and a return of the debt crisis. The ministers met in Brussels for the first time since the European Commission rejected Rome’s 2019 budget in a historic move that gave Italy until November 13 to table a rewrite. (EurActiv)

Donald Tusk warned on Monday that the bitter feud between Warsaw and Brussels over the rule of law could lead to Poland stumbling out of the EU by accident. (Financial Times)

Algeria: Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika released on Monday five senior generals who were detained last month on charges of wrongdoing, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Tunisia: Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed named 10 new ministers on Monday in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject fresh blood into his government which has been widely criticized for failing to fix an economic crisis. (The New York Times)

Egypt: Egypt’s president has signaled he might order a review of a law restricting the work of non-governmental organizations, which has raised an outcry from human rights groups, saying it needed to be “balanced”. (Reuters)

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Brexit: Senior ministers have agreed they want to reach a Brexit deal with the EU by the end of November, sources say. “Everyone saw the difficulties of leaving it longer,” a senior cabinet source told the BBC.

US vs. Iran: Iran said on Tuesday it had so far been able to sell as much oil as it needs despite U.S. pressure, but it urged European countries opposed to U.S. sanctions to do more to shield Iran. (Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed the new US economic sanctions on Iran, saying that Turkey will not abide as they are aimed at unbalancing the world. (Al-Jazeera)

France: The bodies of two men and a woman have been discovered in the rubble of two dilapidated buildings that collapsed in the centre of Marseille on Monday. (The Guardian)

Six people linked to the far right were arrested in France on Tuesday as part of an investigation into a suspected plot to attack President Emmanuel Macron, officials told CNN Tuesday.

European Union: An EU army is likely to be formed one day, the European Commission said on Tuesday after French President Emmanuel Macron called for a “real European army” to reduce dependence on the United States. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a former premier of Luxembourg, has long been a vocal supporter of the idea that the European Union should have more common defense capability, separate from the U.S.-dominated NATO military alliance. (Reuters)

Turkey: A Turkish court sentenced a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish opposition party to 2-1/2 years in jail on terrorism charges, a party official said on Tuesday. Mahmut Togrul, a member the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)representing the southeastern province of Gaziantep, was found guilty of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at two separate speeches in 2016. (Channel NewsAsia)

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Italy: The Senate on Wednesday approved the government’s security-and-migration decree despite a mini rebellion by a handful of members of the 5-Star Movement (M5S). (ANSAmed)

Morocco: This year has been a horrible one for migrants in Morocco with 102 dead including both Moroccans and those of sub-Saharan origins, according to the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH). (ANSAmed)

Libya: The United Nations and Western powers have given up hope that Libya will hold elections in the immediate future, focusing on reconciliation first among rival factions locked in a cycle of conflict, diplomats and other sources said. (Reuters)

Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu met Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian media reported, signaling Kremlin support ahead of a conference aimed at settling the north African country’s years of strife. (Reuters)

Turkey: Turkey considers every support given to the PYD and YPG as a direct or indirect support to the illegal PKK, the country’s presidential aide said on Nov. 7. Speaking following a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Complex, Ibrahim Kalın said Turkey would never allow a terrorist group’s structuring in the east of Euphrates River. Commenting on the U.S. relations with the PYD/YPG, Kalın said: “Turkey’s main expectation from the U.S., which is our NATO ally and strategic partner, is to end its all engagements with PYD/YPG, Syrian branch of PKK terror group.” (Hurriyet Daily News)

Spain: Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) tweeted on Wednesday that it has signed an agreement with Spanish shipbuilder Navantia to jointly manufacture five corvettes for the Saudi navy. The deal, announced earlier this year, is the first military contract signed by the kingdom with a foreign country since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which caused a global outcry. (Reuters)

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Italy: The Italian government coalition deal between the League party and the 5-Star Movement would collapse if no agreement is reached over statute of limitations measures, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio was quoted as saying on Thursday. (Reuters)

Libya: Libya  should start the process to hold a national vote in spring 2019 after a national conference to discuss the country’s conflict, the U.N. Libya envoy said on Thursday. Western powers and the United Nations had originally hoped to hold national elections on Dec. 10 but violence and a deadlock between rival administrations had made that goal unrealistic. (Reuters)

Syria: The Syrian army has freed 19 women and children held hostage since July by so-called Islamic State, state media say. They say the captives were rescued when troops launched an operation north-east of the desert city of Palmyra. The hostages were seized during an IS attack in the southern Suweida region. More than 200 people were killed. (BBC)

Turkey: A Turkish journalist was handed a suspended sentence of two years and five months in prison on Thursday for insulting Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, a court ruling seen by Reuters showed. Husnu Mahalli, a prominent journalist who also writes columns in the opposition newspaper Sozcu, will not be sent to jail due to time already served and as the ruling is up for appeal. (Reuters)

Friday, 9 November 2018

Brexit: Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said a deal between Britain and the European Union over Britain’s exit from the bloc was “more likely than not” within weeks. “I think it is more likely than not that we will conclude an agreement in the next few weeks, before the end of the year,” Varadkar said at the British Irish council on Friday. (Reuters)

Syria: Syrian government forces killed 22 rebels near Idlib province on Friday, the deadliest clash to rock a buffer zone where a Russian-Turkish truce is to be enforced. The attack on a position held by the Jaish al-Izza rebel group took place on the edge of the northwestern province of Idlib, in an area due to be de-militarized. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government forces moved in to take a high building held by the rebels in a rural area of neighboring Hama province. (Hurriyet Daily News)

Gaza: A $15 million Qatari cash infusion was paid out to impoverished Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip on Friday, offering the enclave’s dominant Hamas Islamists a potential domestic reprieve though Israel said the money would not go to them. (Reuters)

Malta: Local criminal investigators have been handed an intelligence report naming Electrogas power station director and businessman Yorgen Fenech as the owner of the mystery Dubai company 17 Black, a joint investigation by Times of Malta and Reuters can reveal. Mr Fenech is the CEO of Tumas Group, a local business giant that is one of the partners in the new gas-fired power station, a project pushed and fronted by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi during the 2013 election. (Times of Malta)