25 JUNE 2015
Week in Brief:OVERSEAS NEWS
GREECE: An emergency meeting in Brussels between Greece and the European Council and the European Central Bank to discuss compromise Greek proposals on pension cuts and VAT increases was postponed in chaos and confusion because Alexis Tsipras failed to submit the proposals in time. Nevertheless, news of the Greek proposals was enough to trigger a rally in European markets.
A deal between Greece and its creditors is needed by the end of this month (when the current bailout expires) if a new bailout loan of 7.2 billion euros is to be released. Without it, Greece will not be able to pay the 1.5 billion euros debt instalment due to the IMF next week or pay this month’s state pensions and wages.
Greek banks are on the verge of collapse, having lost 5 billion euros through money leaving the country. Germany has urged Greece to impose capital controls to prevent further capital flight, as a banking collapse could trigger a Greek exit irrespective of any deal over the country’s debt and economic reform. The banks are dependent on 86 billion euros in emergency aid from the ECB, which could be withdrawn if no deal is reached.
See also under RUSSIA below.
DENMARK: The Social Democrat government of Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the country’s first female prime minister, was defeated in elections.
FRANCE: Two hundred policemen raided the headquarters of the Twelve Tribes, a fundamentalist Christian sect, arrested four adults and took four children into care. The international sect, founded in 1972 in the US, has been accused of racism and violent abuse in several countries.
WikiLeaks has published documents indicating that America’s NSA spied on the French presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.
ITALY: The EU has launched a military mission against the trafficking of migrants from north Africa, with its HQ in Rome and an “intelligence fusion cell” in Sicily. HMS Enterprise will replace HMS Bulwark in a fleet of eight vessels lead by the Italian carrier Cavour and accompanied by two submarines, three surveillance aircraft, two drones and two helicopters. The mission will engage in intelligence gathering until the EU secures a UN mandate for military action in Libya.
LUXEMBOURG: EU foreign ministers renewed sanctions against Russia for another six months in protest against “Russia’s destabilising role in eastern Ukraine.” The restrictions on energy, arms and finance deals were imposed last July.
SWITZERLAND: The Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, said that the police are investigating 104 financial transactions and that investigators are examining 53 cases of suspected money-laundering in connection with FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
HUNGARY: The prime minister, Victor Orban, has announced plans to build a fence along Hungary’s 109 mile border with Serbia to keep out migrants. At least 54,000 migrants from Africa and the Middle East have entered Hungary this year. Hungary has also suspended the EU’s Dublin regulations which require a country to take back illegal migrants who enter the EU through that country.
GEORGIA: One man was killed and another injured by a rare white tiger which had escaped from Tbilisi’s flood-damaged zoo. The tiger was shot dead by policemen.
UKRAINE: The Kiev government has forcibly disbanded the infamous Tornado militia and arrested its commander and six other members on charges of abduction, torture, rape and murder during the struggle against pro-Moscow rebels. The militia is one of several pro-Kiev rogue volunteer forces which the US is encouraging Ukraine to bring under control, and which have prompted Russia to claim that the government has links to fascist groups.
RUSSIA: The Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras met President Putin at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. He was the only European leader present. They discussed investment and trade projects. Mr Tsipras was openly critical of Europe and the EU in his public speeches. The Greek energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, signed a deal to build a Greek extension of the planned Russian gas pipeline through southern Europe.
The Greek defence minister, Panos Kammenos, met the Russian delegation at the Paris air show, to prepare for discussions about Greek/Russian military technology co-operation in Moscow next month.
EGYPT: The army is digging a trench along the frontier with Gaza to stop smugglers tunnelling under the border. The trench will be 20 metres deep. However, the Egyptian authorities will be opening the border for three days at Rafah for the second time this month.
YEMEN: Five bombs exploded in the capital Sanaa, killing at least 30 people and wounding dozens more. The targets were four Shia mosques and the home of a Houthi official.
A fist-fight broke out in Geneva where UN-led peace talks are taking place between conflicting Yemeni factions, when the rebel Houthi force gave a press conference.
SYRIA: Government airstrikes killed 20 children at a mosque in Ghariya. A government rocket attack killed 24 people (including 5 children and fourteen women) in Douma. Rebel bombing killed and wounded dozens of people in government-held Aleppo.
Kurdish forces (YPG) consolidated their hold on the eastern half of Turkey’s border with Syria, by taking area around the town of Giri Sor, and the town and military base of Ein Issa which is only 30 miles from the Isis capital Raqqa. Isis are digging in around Raqqa, preparing for a Kurdish advance. However, a YPG spokesman said that the Kurdish priority is to secure Kurdish territory rather than conquest.
Isis has blown up two historic mausoleums built over the graves of early Islamic figures in the ancient city of Palmyra. They have also planted explosives around the Temple of Bel, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the local Palmyra News Updates. Syrian forces are poised to counter-attack against the modern city, and it is feared that Isis might blow up the historic city when they do.
The war in Syria is the single largest cause of refugees in the world, according to a UN report published this week. The report says there are nearly 60 million displaced people around the world.
IRAN: Iran’s parliament voted to ban foreign inspectors from “military, security, and sensitive non-nuclear sites, as well as documents and scientists.” America is hoping to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran by the end of this month, offering to lift western sanctions in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities. Such a deal would have to involve access to military bases for foreign inspectors.
Two hundred women with specially-issued tickets were barred from a men’s volleyball match between Iran and the US, according to the Iranian volleyball federation.
AFGHANISTAN: Seven Taliban bombers and gunmen attacked the parliament building in Kabul. They were all killed by Afghan soldiers. A woman and a child also died, and 31 people were injured. The Taliban are renewing their attacks on the country after last year’s withdrawal of Western troops. More than 2,300 Afghan soldiers and policemen have been killed this year.
LIBYA: There was a popular uprising against Isis in the town of Derna, which Libya’s army is poised to retake.
CHAD: Two suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in the capital N’Jadema. The prime minister Kalzeubet Pahimi Deubet banned burkas to prevent terrorists from using them for concealment and disguise.
NIGERIA: Two girl suicide bombers killed about 30 people during morning prayers at a mosque in northeast Nigeria.
INDIA: On the first International Yoga Day, the prime minister Narendra Modi joined nearly 40,000 others in Delhi to break the world record for the largest ever yoga session. India’s Muslims criticised him for politicising yoga, originally a Hindu activity.
PAKISTAN: A medical state of emergency has been announced, after nearly 700 people died in a three-day heatwave.
NORTH KOREA: The state news agency admitted that the worst drought in 100 years has resulted in widespread crop-failure.
HONG KONG: The legislative council debated China’s new rules for the election of Hong Kong’s leaders, which propose that Hong Kong can vote for a leader but Beijing will select the candidates. There were protests for and against. Ten people were arrested under suspicion of preparing a bomb. The MPs eventually voted to reject China’s proposals, calling them “fake democracy”.
THAILAND: A 75 year old man from Oman who flew to Bangkok for treatment for a heart problem has gone down with MERS (camel flu). The deadly airborne viral illness originated in Saudi Arabia and has killed 23 people in South Korea in the last month.
USA: A shortage of trained pilots is forcing the US air force to reduce drone combat patrols from 65 to 60 a day. About 240 pilots a year resign due to long hours and stress; the air force can train only 180 annually. Drone pilots work six days in a row, 13 or 14 hours a day.
Nine people were murdered during bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The victims were all black and their church, a historical and spiritual centre for the black community and the civil rights movement, has the longest-standing African-American congregation in the south. A 21 year old white supremacist, Dylann Roof, has been arrested. His use of the Confederate flag, the banner of the slave-owning Southern states in the civil war, has prompted calls for its withdrawal from the public sphere.
Ash Carter, the defence secretary, began a tour of Europe to promote a resolute front among NATO allies facing an increase in Russian military activity.
Taylor Swift persuaded Apple to pay royalties to recording artists for the three-month trial period which Apple is offering free to customers who sign up to its new streaming service Music. Apple was insisting that artists should let it give their work away for the first three months of each customer’s subscription.
MEXICO: Ten people were shot dead when a gang of thieves attacked a beer hall in the city of Monterrey.
THE MOON: The director general of the European Space Agency, Professor Johann-Dietrich Worner, hopes that European governments will fund the building of a village on the Moon, to replace the International Space Station when it is decommissioned in 2024.