Weekly News 7 – 11 May 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs

Monday 07 May 2018

Italy: President Sergio Mattarella called on Monday for Italy’s bickering parties to rally behind a “neutral government”, saying the only alternative would be a swift re-vote after March’s inconclusive election. Mattarella conceded on Monday, after a third round of consultations with all the main party leaders, that there was no room for a coalition deal. Italy’s two largest parties, the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, immediately came out against the proposal, raising the likelihood of an unprecedented immediate return to the polls, even as early as July. (Reuters)

Israel: U.S. Embassy road signs went up in Jerusalem on Monday before next week’s opening of the mission in accordance with President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. Trump will not attend the opening. The U.S. delegation will include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as American Ambassador David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East peace negotiator, the White House said on Monday. On Monday, Paraguay said it was planning to move its embassy to Jerusalem, becoming the third country after the United States and Guatemala to do so. (Reuters)

Israel: A minister in Israel’s security cabinet says it could topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if he allows Iranian forces to attack Israel from Syria. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Monday, Mr Steinitz said Israel had not intervened in the conflict so far despite Mr Assad’s “crimes against us and against his people”. (BBC)

Lebanon: Hezbollah’s leader says the Iran-backed militant Shia group and its allies have achieved “victory” in Lebanon’s first parliamentary elections since 2009.
Although the official results have not been announced, Hassan Nasrallah said their gains guaranteed the protection of the “resistance” against Israel.
Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri said his Western-backed Future Movement had lost a third of its seats.
Mr Hariri is still expected to be asked to form a new unity government.Mr Hariri said his party had ended up with 21 seats, down from 33 nine years ago.  (BBC)

Russia: Vladimir Putin has been sworn in for a fourth term as Russian president and pledged to harness the country’s talents to “achieve breakthroughs”.
He has been in power for 18 years, as president and prime minister, and opponents have likened his tenure to the reign of a tsar, or emperor. (BBC)

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Armenia: Opposition politician Nikol Pashinyan spearheaded weeks of protests in Armenia that brought an end to 10 years of rule by Serzh Sargsyan.
Now he has persuaded a parliament dominated by Mr Sargsyan’s own party to back him as prime minister, only a week after he lost an initial vote.
After MPs voted again on Tuesday, thousands of supporters cheered in Republic Square in the capital Yerevan. (BBC)

Iran: US President Donald Trump says he will withdraw the US from an Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran.
Going against advice from European allies, he said he would reimpose economic sanctions that were waived when the deal was signed in 2015. The US Treasury said economic sanctions would not be reimposed on Iran immediately, but would be subject to 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods.
In a statement on its website, it said sanctions would be reimposed on the industries mentioned in the 2015 deal, including Iran’s oil sector, aircraft exports, precious metals trade, and Iranian government attempts to buy US dollar banknotes. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions that had been imposed by the UN, US and EU. (BBC)

Iran: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said Tehran will bypass Washington and negotiate with the other signatories of a multinational nuclear deal, calling the US withdrawal from the landmark pact “unacceptable”.
Rouhani’s comments on Tuesday came shortly after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, formally known as formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), describing it “defective at its core”. (Al Jazeera)

Italy: A public bus engulfed in flames in a European capital – but no one in Rome thought to blame terrorism.
Instead they wearily pointed the finger at the city’s beleaguered transport authority, Atac.
The blaze on the number 63 bus, which happened on the busy Via del Tritone shopping street in the city centre on Tuesday, was the ninth this year and follows 22 more last year. (BBC)

Wednesday 2 May 2018

Hungary: housands of protesters have demonstrated outside Hungary’s parliament to express their frustration over Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party’s resounding victory in last month’s national elections.
Parliament returned on Tuesday amid demonstrations from across ideological backgrounds, from the left to right-wing nationalists. Protesters chanted “dirty Fidesz” while holding up signs accusing Orban of corruption, stealing European Union (EU) funds, and creating an unfair election system. (Al Jazeera)

Israel: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been in Moscow, meeting the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Speaking after those talks he said he did not believe Russia would try to limit Israel’s military actions in Syria.
It follows reports of an Israeli attack on an Iranian military facility near Damascus.
Israel is concerned about Russia’s growing closeness to Iran and its involvement in Syria. (Al Jazeera)

Thursday 10 May 2018

Israel: Israel says it has struck almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure inside Syria in its biggest assault since the start of the civil war there.
The strikes came after 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights overnight.
Syria’s military said the Israeli “aggression” had killed three people. The Syrian Observatory reported that at least 23 people were killed, including five Syrian soldiers and 18 other allied fighters.
Russia, which is also supporting the Syrian military, said Israel fired 60 air-to-surface and 10 surface-to-surface missiles and that more than half were shot down.
There was no immediate comment from Iran, whose deployment of troops to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad has alarmed Israel.
Iran has repeatedly called for an end to the existence of the Jewish state.
Russia, Germany and France called on both countries to exercise restraint, but the US said Iran bore “full responsibility for the consequences of its reckless actions” and that Israel had a right to defend itself. (BBC)

Italy: Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement and right-wing League party say they have made significant steps to forming a government, more than two months after a general election.
Luigi Di Maio of Five Star and Matteo Salvini of The League have been given until Sunday to solve their differences.
The two leaders said in a joint statement they were aiming to “provide a response and a political government for the country as soon as possible”. They have given no indication who would lead the government or what their policies will be. (BBC)

Spain: Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has nominated a political newcomer to be the region’s new president.
In a video from his self-imposed exile in Berlin, Mr Puigdemont named Quim Torra to be a candidate for the presidency of the region.
Mr Torra is an MP from Mr Puigdemont’s pro-independence party, Together for Catalonia (JxCat). (BBC)

Friday 11 May 2018

Iran: Iran on Friday supported Syria’s right to defend itself against aggression from Israel, state TV reported, accusing others of remaining silent over the attacks on Tehran’s key regional ally. (Reuters)

Iraq: Iraqis will vote on Saturday in their first parliamentary election since the defeat of ISIL last year.
The government says it’s closing airports and border crossings for 24 hours for extra security.
It’s also suspending travel between provinces and restricting the movement of vehicles. (Al Jazeera)

Iraq: An Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush during a news conference a decade ago is standing for parliament. Today, Muntazer al-Zaidi is standing for parliament as a member of the movement of firebrand Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia waged a violent campaign against the U.S. military during its occupation of Iraq, but who has lately redefined himself as an opponent of militant sectarianism. (Reuters)

Palestine: Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip are protesting for the seventh Friday in a row as part of the Great March of Return movement. Israeli forces have shot dead a 40-year-old man, Jaber Salem Abu Mustafa, east of Khan Younis, according to the health ministry. Abu Mustafa died when he was shot in the chest with live ammunition.
Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry, said 167 other people have been wounded due to live ammunition, tear gas, and rubber-coated steel bullets.
One journalist was among those injured. He sustained an injury in the foot east of Khan Younis. (Al Jazeera)