Issue 69: 2016 09 01: Week in Brief International

01 September 2016

Week in Brief: International



EU: Negotiations for a trade deal between the EU and the USA have failed, according to Germany’s vice-chancellor.  The French minister for foreign trade said that he will be calling for an end to the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) talks which have been going on three years.

FRANCE: France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, ruled that the Burkini ban is unlawful.

Local politicians and businesses, and some presidential candidates, are calling for the Calais migrant camp to be closed down and for the international UK/French border to be moved north of the Channel.  President Hollande’s government, however, insists that the Le Touquet agreement will continue to be respected.

President Hollande’s protégé and economics minister, Emmanuel Macron, resigned.  M Macron, a banker and reformist who recently launched the ‘En Marche!’ movement, is not a Socialist or an elected politician, but his resignation is seen as a move towards standing as a candidate in next year’s presidential elections.

Jean-Marie Le Pen plans to field candidates from his new Comites Jeanne party to rival his daughter Marine’s National Front candidates in next years elections.  Marine Le Pen has removed her party’s name and insignia from its campaign material in order to detoxify it; however, this risks alienating party members who could turn to her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, for a more hard-line leadership.

IRELAND: The EU Commission is apparently preparing to rule that the tax advantages enjoyed by Apple in the Republic of Ireland have been in breach of EU law in that they amounted to unlawful state aid.  If the ruling is announced as expected, both the Irish Government and Apple are likely to appeal.

ITALY: An earthquake of magnitude 6.2 hit central Italy.  Towns and villages were destroyed.  At least 292 people were killed and 365 were injured.  2500 people have been left homeless.

Italy has expelled the suspected Russian spy Sergei Pozdnyakov.  Mr Pozdnyakov has spent the last eight weeks in custody after his arrest in Rome where he was allegedly caught buying Nato secrets from a member of the Portuguese secret service.

Almost 8000 migrants were rescued in the sea off North Africa in the last three days of August, and taken to Italy.

RUSSIA: A report by an opposition figure claims that President Putin’s party, United Russia, is “the party of criminal Russia”.  It details cases where United Russia MPs, regional governors and local councillors have faced allegations of criminal activities.  There will be parliamentary elections in Russia this month.

SPAIN: The prime minister faces a vote of no confidence this week, as he still struggles to put a coalition together. The vote could trigger the third general election in a year.

UKRAINE: An anti-Putin Russian journalist based in Ukraine, Alexander ShChetinin, ha been found shot dead in his home in Kiev.

The death-toll in the on-going conflict in Eastern Ukraine is rising as next month’s peace-talks approach.

Special forces claim to have arrested 106 crime bosses from Russia, Ukraine and Moldova in a raid on the funeral of drug baron Alexei Salnikov.  Salnikov (also known as Lech Krasnodonsky) had been on the run for two years and had convictions for drug trafficking and weapon possession.  He apparently died from an overdose.

Middle East and Africa

AFGHANISTAN: Gunmen attacked the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, killing at least one student and wounding 26 others.

GABON: In this weeks elections, President Ali Bongo is expected to win a second seven-year term in office.  He succeeded his father, Omar Bongo, who had been president for 41 years, in 2009.  His opponent, Jean Ping, is a diplomat and former chairman of the African Union.  Both have claimed victory after initial results were declared.

IRAQ: A rift over the chain-of-command has opened up between two Kurdish factions, the Syrian PYD and the Iraq KDP, preventing the return of the Rojava pershmerga to Syria and threatening a more serious breach within the Kurdish alliance.

Mass graves containing thousands of victims of massacres by Isis are being uncovered across Iraq and Syria as Isis loses territory.

LIBYA: Forces loyal to the government of national accord announced that ‘the final battle for Sirte has started’.  It is believed that fewer than 400 Isis fighters remain in their former north African stronghold, but they have been fighting back with a wave of suicide car bombs.

SOUTH AFRICA: The internationally-respected finance minister Pravin Gordham has fallen foul of the police for investigating tax-dodgers including high-ranking politicians.  Presdient Zuma announced the creation of a council for state-owned companies in what is seen as a move to keep Mr Gordham out.  These developments, which the opposition DA party has condemned as a witch-hunt against Mr Gordham, have provoked a drastic fall in the rand.

SYRIA: Isis have been driven from the town of Jarabulus (a vital link between Raqqa and the Turkish border) by Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish army and the US, in a campaign which has seen the Turkish army – tanks and infantry – intervening in the Syrian conflict for the first time.  The Turkish intervention is to prevent the Kurds from seizing the town and the surrounding area (Jarabulus is between two Kurdish-held areas along the Turkish border).  The intervention has been condemned by the Kurds and by the Assad regime.  It has the tacit support of the US, however, which, even though it supports the Kurds, has warned them to stay clear. The Kurdish-dominated SDF have indeed halted their advance on the town, but fired a rocket at a Turkish tank; one Turkish soldier was killed and the Turkish air force struck back at SDF positions, killing 35 civilians. US pressure also persuaded the SDF to withdrawn from the Syrian Arab town of Manjib which they liberated from Isis last week.

In Aleppo, a barrel-bomb attack killed 11 children in a rebel area. 23 civilians were killed by another two barrel-bomb attacks, on mourners at a wake for the dead children.  Russia agreed to a UN-proposed 48 hour cease-fire to allow aid to be delivered.

In Daraya, on the outskirts of Damascus, a deal agreed between the regime and rebels ended the four-year siege.  The starving town yielded to Assad: 700 fighters and their relatives left on buses to opposition territory in Idlib; 4,000 civilians (women, children and older men) were evacuated to regime-held areas.

UN investigators and the Organisation For The Prevention Of Chemical Weapons confirmed that Assad’s forces did use chlorine gas, a banned weapon, in at least two helicopter bomb attacks on civilians.

Coalition air-strikes outside Al Bab killed Isis’s official spokesman, propagandist and head of external operations.

An investigation by The Guardian newspaper has found that large amounts of UN cash, running into millions of dollars, have been paid to Syrian organisations run by those close to President Assad, including a charity run by his wife.

TURKEY: The army moved into Syria to help Syrian rebels take Jarabulus from Isis, pre-empting a Kurdish advance on the town.  A military zone has been declared around the Turkish border town of Karkamis, which seems to be a Turkish-hosted rebel base.

President Erdogan opened the newly-built Yavuz Sultan bridge over the Bosphorus.  It is the world’s broadest suspension bridge, and the only one carrying road and rail traffic on the same level, with eight lanes of road traffic and two railway lines.

A Kurdish PKK car bomb killed at least 11 police officers in Cizre.

UZBEKISTAN: President Islam Karimov has suffered a brain haemorrhage.  Some news reports say that he is in a stable condition, others say that he has died.  Mr Karimov has been president since 1991 (he was appointed head of Soviet Uzbekistan in 1989). He has no obvious successor and his death could trigger turmoil; his regime has been criticised as a brutal dictatorship, and the country has had problems with Islamist militants.

YEMEN: An Isis suicide-bomber killed 60 army recruits by driving a lorry full of explosives into a recruitment centre in Aden.  The recruits were hoping to join a new Saudi-led unit.

ZIMBABWE: Police in Harare defied a high court ruling and used tear gas, water cannons and batons on a mass anti-Mugabe demonstration organised by an unprecedented coalition of opposition parties.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

BURMA: Aung San Suu Kyi has appointed former head of the UN Kofi Annan to lead a body set up to investigate the violent persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

INDONESIA: A teenager armed with a bomb and an axe was arrested  trying to attack a Roman Catholic church during Mass.

KOREA, NORTH: A North Korean submarine test-fired a ballistic missile towards Japan.

Two officials were executed with anti-aircraft guns, according to a report by South Korean media.

PHILIPPINES: A group of 20 heavily-armed jihadists stormed a jail in Marawi on Mindanao island, releasing 8 other militants and 15 inmates.


BOLIVIA: Miners, protesting against environmental regulations and calling for more mining, temporarily blocked a highway in Panduro.  The roadblock became the scene of violent protests, in which deputy interior minister Rodolfo Illanes was killed.

BRAZIL: President Rousseff is on trial in the Senate, accused of manipulating official accounts to disguise the state of the economy prior to her re-election in 2014.  She points out that previous governments have done this with impunity, and claims that her impeachment is an attempted coup by her conservative opponents against her democratically-elected government, in order to impede the investigation into the Petrobas scandal in which many of them are implicated.  The Senate is about to vote on a verdict – two thirds (53) of the 81 senators are needed to dismiss her.

COLOMBIA: The government and Farc (Marxist rebels) announced an agreement on a peace deal, ending many years of conflict.  The deal must be accepted by a referendum on October 2 (the controversial amnesty proposals could prove an obstacle), and leaders of Farc (Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia) need to ratify it with regional commanders.

USA: President Obama has expanded the Marine National Monument of northwest Hawaii to create the biggest wildlife reserve on earth, encompassing 580,578 square miles of land and sea.


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