23 February 2017
Week In Brief: INTERNATIONAL NEWS
CYPRUS: Talks about the reunification of Cyprus came to halt when the Turkish Cypriot negotiators withdrew in protest at last week’s decision by the Greek Cypriot parliament to introduce a national remembrance day for Enosis (the Greek Cypriot decision in 1950 for the island to be taken over by Greece).
FRANCE: Violent protests continued in Paris and other French cities as allegations of brutality, sexual assault and rape were made against the four white police officers who arrested a young black man in Aulnay-sous-Bois earlier this month. The man has only just been discharged from hospital.
Emmanuel Macron visited Algeria and denounced France’s colonial past in that country as “truly barbarous” and “a crime against humanity”. He also visited London to address French residents and to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May.
French police raided the National Front’s offices in Nanterre as part of the investigation into allegations that €340,000 claimed from the European parliament to pay MEPs’ staff was instead used to pay personnel at the party headquarters. Party leader Marine le Pen visited the Lebanon and was received by President Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. She surprised her hosts by refusing to wear a headscarf to meet the grand mufti (the meeting was cancelled) and by expressing support for Assad of Syria.
GERMANY: In Munich, US defence secretary James Mattis and US secretary of state Rex Tillerson insisted that the USA is committed to NATO and the defence of Europe, but repeated their concerns that the contribution of 2% of national income agreed by NATO nations is not being met by many of them. German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel and president of the European commission Jean-Claude Junker dismissed those concerns.
Frauke Petry, the head of Alternative for Germany, visited Moscow at the invitation of the Russian government and had meetings with officials including the speaker and deputy speaker of the Duma.
IRELAND: The Fine Gael government narrowly survived a vote of no confidence. It is facing allegations of smearing a police whistle-blower. Prime Minister Enda Kelly is expected to announce this week that he plans to resign in the near future.
PORTUGAL: The vice-president of Angola, Manual Vicente, was charged with corruption. He is accused of trying to stop enquiries into his actions as head of the Angolan state oil company Sonangol by offering a bribe of $800,000 to a Portuguese magistrate.
SPAIN: The husband of Princess Cristina was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to six years in prison. The princess was found not guilty of colluding with him.
More than 800 migrants broke through fences separating Morocco from the Spanish territory of Ceuta to claim asylum.
SWEDEN: Rioting broke out in Rinkeby, a suburb of Stockholm with a large immigrant population. Shops were looted, cars set on fire and stones thrown at police. The police fired shots, though no one was hit.
UKRAINE: A French and German brokered ceasefire came into force, though it is fragile as it is said to be disliked by both Kiev and Moscow. Russia announced that it will recognise passports issued by the separatist regions.
Middle East and Africa
AFGHANISTAN: Fifty-two farmers have been kidnapped by gunmen in the northern province of Jowzjan, a region fast coming under control of the Taliban.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: The government declared that presidential elections will not take place this year because it can’t afford them. President Kabila has been in power since 2001; his second term ended last November, but since then elections have been postponed.
IRAN: At least seven people were killed by freak weather – floods, blizzards, sand storms and avalanches – across the country.
Two of the country’s leading young chess players, brother and sister Dorna and Borna Derakhshani, have been banned from representing Iran and from playing chess in Iran because Dorsa didn’t wear a veil while playing in the recent Gibraltar Open Tournament and Borna played against an Israeli.
IRAQ: A bomb attack killed at least 55 people in a market in southern Baghdad. Isis is thought to be responsible.
Two suicide bombers killed 12 people and injured at least 30 in a market in liberated east Mosul. The civilian population of west Mosul is reported to be suffering from shortages of food and medicines.
ISRAEL: The Israeli soldier recently found guilty of shooting dead a captured Palestinian attacker was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
LIBYA: The mayors of ten towns in southern Libya attended a summit in Rome to discuss international co-operation to stop people-trafficking and discourage migration. At least 70 migrants drowned when people traffickers sent their boat to sea during winter storms.
Gunmen in Tripoli opened fire on a convoy carrying officials of the Government of National Accord, including Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. A rival authority led by the Islamist Khalifa Ghwell succeeded in opening Tripoli airport. A group of militias came together as another rival authority calling itself the Libyan National Guard.
SOUTH SUDAN: Famine has been declared by the UN, the World Food Programme and the government. Aid agencies blame civil war, political rivalries and bad governance rather than crop failure.
SYRIA: The joint Turkish and rebel assault on the Isis-held town of al-Bab has faltered. Sources claim that the Turkish army has been incapacitated by the purges it has suffered since the recent failed coup attempt.
Assad regime forces have launched an intense rocket and air attack on rebel-held areas near Damascus, in the lead-up to peace talks next week.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
CHINA: Three knife-wielding attackers killed five people and wounded ten others in the western region of Xinjiang. The assailants were shot dead by the police. Some reports say that they were Uighurs, the ethnic Muslims of Xinjiang, many of whom claim to suffer from repression and discrimination. Officials announced that all drivers in the province must install the Beidou navigation system – a GPS tracking device – in their vehicles, as a counter-terrorism surveillance measure.
A ban on the import of coal from North Korea was announced as a sanction against Pyongyang.
INDIA: India’s space programme broke records with the launch of a rocket which carried 104 commercial satellites into space. The launch took place on Sriharikota Island, off the south coast, and the satellites belong to Planet Labs Inc. (part owned by Google) and other companies.
MALAYSIA: Police have made four arrests (including a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman) in connection with the murder of Kim Jong-Nam, and are seeking another four suspects. A post-mortem examination was conducted on his body, and samples have been sent to laboratories for testing. The North Korean ambassador accused Malaysia of “colluding with hostile forces” for not releasing the body to North Korea; Malaysia withdrew its ambassador from Pyongyang in protest.
PAKISTAN: A suicide bomber killed at least 75 people in an attack on a crowded Sufi shrine in Sehwan. Isis has claimed responsibility, but the government denies that Isis is active in Pakistan and has blamed the Taliban-affiliated Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. The army responded by raiding suspected militants; over 100 were killed and dozens arrested.
PHILIPPINES: A former justice secretary, Leila de Lima, has been charged with accepting bribes from drug bosses. She is an outspoken critic of President Duterte’s support for extrajudicial killings, and claims that the accusations against her are politically motivated.
A second witness has claimed that President Duterte personally authorised and organised extra-judicial killings while mayor of Davao. The witness is a former police officer who confessed that he took part in the killings.
BERMUDA: Former Prime Minister Dr Ewart Brown has been accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from an American hospital while he was in office.
ECUADOR: In the first round of the presidential election, the leftist governing party’s candidate Lenin Moreno narrowly failed to gain the 40% needed for outright victory. There will be a second round run-off against conservative Guillermo Lasso who came second. Lasso should win the run-off, as the other conservative opposition candidates now urge their supporters to vote for him. One of his election promises was to ask Julian Assange to leave the London embassy.
USA: President Trump met the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington. Trump said that the USA would no longer insist on a two-state solution to Palestinian/Israeli conflict. He proposed more co-operation between Israel and Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia as a counterbalance against Iran.
Conflict between the president and the intelligence services continued, with the disclosure of reports saying that members of Trump’s team were in touch with senior Russian spies during the election campaign, claims and leaks which Trump denies and condemns.
President Trump nominated Lieutenant General Herbert McMaster as the new national security adviser, to replace Mike Flynn. Former vice-admiral Robert Howard was offered the position but turned it down.
President Trump attacked the media for lack of sympathy and for spreading ‘fake news’ about him.
A nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its escort of cruisers and destroyers began a patrol of the South China Seas.
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