Jack Merlin Watling, 30 April 2015
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: US seeks Iranian help in forcing parties to negotiate. Tensions continue to rise after the Iranian Republican Guard seized a cargo ship in international waters and Saudi jets bombed a Yemeni runway to prevent Iran from landing aid. However the US is hoping that Iran can fulfill its promise to promote stability in the region by forcing its Houthi allies to the negotiating table following the breakdown of backdoor negotiations last week.
NEPAL: Protests as death toll tops 5000. Amidst accusations of a poorly coordinated relief effort Nepalese protesters are blocking roads and demonstrating in the capital of Kathmandu. International medical teams have arrived in Nepal as the Prime Minister has warned the death toll could reach 10,000. Foreign nationals have been reported to be involved in disturbances.
SAUDI ARABIA: King Salman appoints new generation as successors. The new Saudi monarch has appointed his nephew to the position of crown prince in the first generational shift in the kingdom’s line of succession since 1953. The political consequences of the transition are likely to be shielded from public view, but could be considerable. The former defence minister who has overseen the widespread arming of rebel groups in Syria has been elevated to the position of deputy crown prince.
THURSDAY 30 APRIL 2015
UK: BBC to air a series of pre-election debates one week before polling day. With the two major parties neck and neck and a coalition government a near certainty the debates could be a deciding factor for many floating voters.
GREECE: Greece’s creditors meet to assess proposed reforms. European lenders are skeptical about the possibility of a deal being reached. The Greek government needs to secure an “interim” deal to avert a cash flow shortage before a 12 May deadline when an IMF loan repayment of €750 million is due.
UZBEKISTAN: Human Rights Watch release report on mass killings at Andijan. The Andijan massacre took place on 13 May 2005 when Uzbek forces shot and killed unarmed protesters who had gathered in a city square to protest against poverty, corruption and other abuses. The country’s stance on human rights has remained draconian since the crackdown. Human Rights Watch hopes the report will encourage the US and EU to apply pressure against Uzbekistan at the UN.
PALESTINE: Jimmy Carter visits West Bank and Gaza to unite Palestinian factions. Analysts of the Israel-Palestine peace process have expressed concern that there is no serious negotiating body who can represent the Palestinian position. Carter’s visit aims to unify the negotiating position of the feuding Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
INDONESIA: President launches 'One Million Houses Program' in Central Java. The $782 million building programme is to provide homes for low income citizens who will be eligible for a government subsidised mortgage on apartments or houses provided they earn less than $312 or $546 per month respectively.
SPAIN: Egyptian President Sisi visits Spain at the invitation of King Felipe VI. Sisi will also hold bilateral talks with the Prime Minister and the Secretary for Energy, Industry and Tourism who cut short a trip to China to return for the unexpected visit by the Egyptian President.
FRIDAY 1 MAY 2015
UN: Lithuania assumes presidency of Security Council amidst tensions with Moscow. Lithuania recently announced its plans to increase military spending by a third to counter perceived threats and work more closely with NATO allies. This comes after a major Russian military exercise in the Kaliningrad enclave bordering Lithuania last year.
ARGENTINA: Further economic instability due to legal wrangling over national debt. Argentina defaulted on its debts in 2001 and has been barred from paying creditors by a US court until it settles its debts with a US group of investors. The government has continued to try and process debt payments but faces claims in local law after 30 April, just a day after the Finance Minister denounced the power of ‘Vulture Funds’ at the UN.
SATURDAY 2 MAY 2015
PHILIPPINES / UNITED STATES: Boxing’s most anticipated fight. America’s Floyd Mayweather will face Filipino Manny Pacquiao for a purse of $300 million in what is billed as the world’s largest ever fight.
SRI LANKA: John Kerry visits in bid to thaw relations after long mutual distrust. America’s relations with Colombo deteriorated as former president Mahinda Rajapaksa pursued close ties with Beijing. Since Maithripala Sirisena ousted Rajapaksa in elections early this year both countries have worked to restore their previously positive relations.
SUNDAY 3 MAY 2015
LIBYA: Trial of 37 Gaddafi era officials resumes. The officials face charges of killing and repressing demonstrators during the 2011 uprising that toppled the Gaddafi regime. The hearing is expected to establish the date on which a verdict will be delivered.
OMAN: Three month general amnesty for undocumented migrants. Undocumented expats are being encouraged to leave and return home without incurring the usual fine or punishment for illegal migrants.
UAE: International Renewable Energy Agency opens headquarters in Masdar City. After growing concerns around the long term viability of the UAE’s reliance on non-renewables this move is seen as helping to bolster the country’s plans to deliver a more varied source of energy and may contribute to the country’s influence at the Paris climate conference later this year.
Jack Merlin Watling, 27 April 2015
ONES TO WATCH
NEPAL: Thousands dead after severest earthquake in 80 years. India has already landed medical teams while the international community seeks to provide relief following a massive earthquake and ongoing aftershocks. Thousands have been made homeless and many travellers are unaccounted for.
YEMEN: Negotiations fail as Saudi Arabia renews bombing campaign. Backdoor negotiations failed to make progress after the Yemeni government rejected peace talks with Yemen’s ousted former president Saleh, who is supported by the Houthis. The breakdown prompted Saudi aircraft to bomb Yemen’s capital of Sana’a while the Saudi navy shelled the southern port of Aden.
MALAYSIA: Security forces claim to have foiled Islamic State attack before ASEAN talks. 12 men have been arrested for being members of the Islamic State and planning to engage in terror attacks. Explosives were seized by security forces on the day that regional leaders arrived for the ASEAN conference starting on Monday.
INDONESIA: Eight drug traffickers on 72-hour notice to face firing squad. Members of the ‘Bali Nine’ drug trafficking group are due to be executed in spite of desperate lobbying by Australia, Nigeria, Brazil and Ghana whose citizens are among the prisoners. One French citizen is still awaiting appeal.
MONDAY 27 APRIL 2015
UKRAINE: EU officials arrive in Kiev for EU-Ukraine summit. The summit will seek to implement the Association Agreement, signed in June 2014 between the EU and Ukraine, opening the door to investment and financial assistance. Ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine is also likely to dominate the discussion as the Minsk II ceasefire is once again threatened by insurgent attacks by Russian backed separatists.
SUDAN: Election results to be announced as opposition reject their legitimacy. Opposition parties have called on the international community to reject the results of Sudan’s presidential and parliamentary elections. The European Union also considers the elections illegitimate owing to violence and a low turnout. The announcement will be controversial and is expected to be followed by protests.
INDIA: Afghan President in delicate talks on state visit. Ashraf Ghani, president of Afghanistan, is visiting India in an attempt to strengthen relations. But while desperate for stronger economic ties with India, he must be careful not to concern India’s adversaries in Pakistan and China. Pakistan’s good will towards Afghanistan is crucial for maintaining security. Ghani must therefore be delicate in establishing stronger bilateral strategic relations as his words will be carefully scrutinised.
SPAIN: Memorial for victims of Germanwings plane crash. Spain’s King and Prime Minister will attend the service to be held in Barcelona in memory of 150 passengers who died when the aircraft crashed in the French Alps.
ITALY: Ban Ki-Moon meets Italy’s Prime Minister to discuss migrant boats. The conference follows a considerable expansion of European resources being put into saving the lives of people trying to cross the Mediterranean. However UN conflict prevention and mediation in Libya are crucial for tackling the causes of the refugee crisis.
ETHIOPIA: African Climate Conference ahead of Paris Climate talks. Infrastructure, industry and agriculture across sub-Saharan Africa are projected to be severely affected should average global temperatures rise above two degrees. The African Union is therefore seeking to build ‘Climate Resilient Infrastructure’ and to develop a unified negotiating position ahead of the global climate conference in Paris later this year.
KUWAIT: Erdogan visits Kuwait. The visit is ostensibly aimed at improving security cooperation as Erdogan has stated that Gulf security is inseparable from Turkey’s security. However many believe that Kuwait is seeking to mediate between Turkey and Egypt on behalf of Saudi Arabia. Turkey’s relations with Egypt deteriorated after the ousting of the President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
TUESDAY 28 APRIL 2015
UNITED STATES: US Supreme Court deliberates on state bans on same-sex marriage. The case is not just central to the progress of LGBT rights in the US, but could also set a landmark precedent on the rights of state legislatures. The court will begin to hear oral arguments on whether same-sex marriage bans are constitutional as applied by Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. The court is expected to give a ruling in June.
INDIA: Finance Ministry meets Public Sector Banks pushing reform of banking sector. India’s banking system is under pressure as many small public sector banks struggle to recoup loans and lack capital to pursue profitable investments. In a bid to improve access to capital for investment the Finance Ministry is seeking to merge many smaller banks. The move will be delicate, but is a crucial component of Prime Minister Modi’s pledge to revive India’s economy.
BANGLADESH: Supreme court begins appeal hearings of war criminals. Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, a leader of Bangladesh’s Islamist movement, and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, were previously found guilty of war crimes, committed during the 1971 Liberation War and sentenced to death. Their sentences prompted protests and clashes with police. The supreme court hearing may lead to further disturbances.
WEDNESDAY 29 APRIL 2015
US: Japanese Prime Minister to address Congress. Shinzo Abe is on a tour of the US to drum up support for a Trans-Pacific Free Trade Deal and to improve strategic relations with the US as Japanese relations with Russia sour over aerial stand offs. Also of interest is discussion of Japan selling ‘maglev’ technology to the US after Japan’s first magnetic levitation train broke the land speed record.
UK: Moody’s MENA Investor Conference. The conference will see discussion of Islamic Finance and financial opportunities amidst widespread political instability across the region. The outlook of international investors will be of particular interest to Egypt who are desperate for investment, while businesses will be very interested in potential opportunities in Iran should international sanctions be lifted as a result of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations.
CYPRUS: Sisi meets with Cypriot President and Greek Prime Minister. The meeting follows an agreement in November to form new treaties between Egypt and the EU, with Cyprus and Greece acting as Europe’s ‘ambassadors.’ However Egypt’s relations with Cyprus also raise questions about the country’s ties to Russia, for whom Cyprus is a key strategic ally.
ISRAEL / PALESTINE: PLO leadership meet to redefine relations with Israel. The Israeli government dropped its previous economic and security agreements with the Palestinian Authority, leading Palestinian leaders to seek new terms after Israel’s recent election.
Jack Merlin Watling, 23 April 2015
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Bombing continues despite Saudi declared halt and backroom negotiations. The Saudi-led Coalition announced on Tuesday night an end to Operation Decisive Storm. Within twelve hours however bombing had resumed. Negotiations are ongoing between the Houthis allied to former President Saleh, the Saudi Coalition and President Hadi. Any proposals are not expected to satisfy Yemen’s Southern separatist Hirak movement which is battling Saleh and the Houthis in Aden. Meanwhile Al Qaeda and other militant groups continue to gain ground, exacerbating the situation.
UKRAINE: Russia massing troops and weapons on Ukrainian border. US officials have accused Russia of deploying air defence systems inside separatist regions of eastern Ukraine raising the scale of their military involvement in the conflict and breaching the terms of the Minsk II ceasefire agreement. The Russians have also been accused of carrying out training exercises for Ukrainian separatists, including in the use of drones, while US and UK military personnel train Ukraine’s military.
SOUTH SUDAN: Peace deal in jeopardy after violence leaves nearly 40 dead. Army spokespeople have claimed the situation is under control but aid groups on the ground have suspended operations and anticipate the situation to deteriorate further.
THURSDAY 23 APRIL 2015
ANGOLA: Renowned investigative journalist on trial for corruption allegations. Rafael Marques de Morais, an award winning journalist, praised for his detailed and determined reporting on corruption, faces charges of defamation against seven generals and business leaders in relation to his reporting on the diamond industry in Angola. If convicted Rafael faces nine years in prison and up to a $1.2 million fine. The trial has been denounced as an attempt by the regime of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to silence press criticism.
MEDITERRANEAN: Europe rethinks policy on migrants at sea. An emergency meeting of the European Council is to be held in Brussels to clarify European policy on migrant boats in the Mediterranean after almost 2000 migrants died at sea over the past week. They are expected to double the cash for EU border authorities and discuss plans to target people smugglers in North Africa. A fierce debate divides the council over search and rescue priorities in the mediterranean however.
GREECE: Tsipras meets Merkel as Greece stalls on pledged reforms. Greece has continued to test the patience of its creditors, increasing the likelihood of its exit from the Euro, as the government delays implementing promised reforms. The EU has consequently withheld access to over €7.2 billion in bailout funds. Tsipras will meet with Merkel ahead of a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers which will convene to assess Greece’s progress.
GEORGIA: President of Belarus brings business to Georgia on state visit. President Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Tbilisi on Wednesday evening and will meet his Georgian counterpart on Thursday to discuss bilateral agreements to support trade, particularly in the agricultural sector. However the visit will also see a number of less publicised agreements aimed at tackling organized and financial crime.
IRAN: Nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 continue. Both parties are pushing ahead to work out the detailed wording of a treaty to be completed by the end of June.
FRIDAY 24 APRIL 2015
TURKEY: Protests mark Centenary anniversary of Armenian genocide. Mass demonstrations are expected in Taksim square in Istanbul two days after the President of Armenia called for a normalisation of relations with Turkey. The Turkish government remains bullish however and has withdrawn its ambassador from Austria after the Austrian Parliament affirmed that it recognised the Armenian genocide.
ASEAN: Showdown over Chinese ‘expansionism’ expected at summit in Malaysia. Many member states feel threatened by China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea and led by the Philippines are attempting to force a diplomatic confrontation. Chinese diplomats have been frantically trying to avoid the topic from becoming an ASEAN issue.
GREECE: Riga gathering of EU finance ministers as Greece runs out of cash. Greece must secure a deal in Riga or the Greek government could be forced to choose between paying its employees or its creditors. Each course could prove disastrous, either causing a domestic backlash, or its departure from the Eurozone.
US: Sentencing of CIA officer convicted of leaking information to the New York Times. Jeffrey Sterling was found guilty of nine counts, including six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defence information and one count of obstruction of justice after he handed the New York Times documents relating to a failed American espionage operation targeting Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. The Obama administration has come under widespread criticism for its targeting of whistleblowers.
CANADA: Arctic Council meet ahead of Paris 2015 Climate Conference. The loss of sea ice in the Arctic has raised serious environmental concerns. The Arctic Council, which meets every two years, aims to improve cooperation among its members to promote the environment and economy of the North Sea. Negotiations between Russia and the US could be uncomfortable however as the US assumes chairmanship of the council.
SATURDAY 25 APRIL 2015
TOGO: Presidential Election. The election was originally postponed after the opposition accused the incumbent’s supporters of registering multiple times to vote. The government has also faced criticism from human rights groups for preventing anti-government demonstrations in the run up to the election. President Gnassingbe has ruled Togo for a decade and is expected to win, although he faces serious opposition including from a former colleague of French President Mitterrand.
TURKEY: 100th anniversary of the First World War Gallipoli campaign. Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia and the British Royal family will attend the commemorations for those who died serving in the Australia New Zealand Army Corps during World War One. The ANZAC commemorations, with recognitions of mutual suffering, have proved significant in fostering warm relations between Turkey and the Australasian states.
SUNDAY 26 APRIL 2015
US: Japanese Prime Minister on state visit, seeking progress on free trade deal. Japan is pushing for a lucrative trans-Pacific free trade partnership. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to meet with Obama on 28 April after negotiations in Boston with John Kerry. He is also expected to visit a WWII memorial. Japan has come under international censure for its failure to recognise Japanese war crimes during the conflict, especially the forcing of women into prostitution.
KAZAKHSTAN: Presidential ‘election.’ The decision of incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev to hold early elections, originally scheduled for 2016, is puzzling in the absence of any opposition. Nazarbayev has been widely condemned for his authoritarian rule. In the previous election he attained 95% of the vote and, despite the Kazakh constitution limiting Presidents to two five-year terms in office, Nazarbayev has a personal dispensation to run as many times as he wishes.
Jack Merlin Watling, 20 April 2015
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Backroom negotiations to avert international ground war. The Saudi-led bombing campaign has driven back Houthi fighters in the south but as Al Qaeda makes use of the chaos to claim territory, rumours have emerged of intense diplomatic efforts to stabilise the country and forestall intervention by the Egyptian military.
MEDITERRANEAN: Europe faces Catch-22 as up to 700 migrants drown off Libya. The European Union has come under severe criticism for not aiding migrants trying to cross from Libya to Italy, but EU naval officials fear that patrolling rescue vessels would encourage people to take to the sea. Up to 700 migrants are believed to have died after their boat overturned en route from Libya. Italy’s PM has called an emergency summit on EU policy.
FINLAND: Expectations that pro-EU Prime Minister to be ousted. Early counts suggest a victory for Finland’s Opposition Centre Party under Juha Sipila, but as the country faces economic woes its new Prime Minister may find himself reliant on eurosceptic and nationalist MPs with serious implications for the EU and NATO.
SOUTH AFRICA: Violence against foreigners heralds crisis. Xenophobic attacks against foreigners have escalated, causing President Jacob Zuma to cancel a state visit and take the reigns. The attacks overlay a struggling economy and systematic power cuts across the country that have crippled support for a government already hounded by corruption scandals.
NIGERIA: Unidentified disease spreads in Ondo, killing within 24 hours. Lab tests have yet to identify a virus that has killed at least seventeen people in Ondo province, although they have ruled out Ebola.
MONDAY 20 APRIL 2015
PAKISTAN: Xi Jinping doubles Pakistan’s submarine fleet on state visit. As India tests new ballistic missile capabilities China is selling Pakistan eight submarines, as well as signing agreements relating to nuclear power, that some fear will support Pakistan in developing a maritime nuclear capability. China has tense relations with India and Xi Jinping said of his two day trip that he feels “as if I am going to visit the home of my own Brother.”
CUBA: First post rapprochement US trade mission to Cuba. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is to lead a trade delegation to Cuba seeking to encourage tentative trade links for the travel, financial services, healthcare, agriculture and education sectors. The trip will be extremely sensitive both for US-Cuban relations and for American domestic politics.
GREECE: Trial of far right Golden Dawn party officers on organised crime charges. 70 people are to go on trial for crimes including murder and political violence. The accused include members of Greece’s neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which has become increasingly powerful during Greece’s economic woes and has extensive support among the country’s police and security forces.
TUESDAY 21 APRIL 2015
EGYPT: First verdict against overthrown president Mohamed Morsi. The former elected president will receive the verdict along with 14 others charged with inciting the killing of protesters in clashes on 5 December 2012. Seven of the defendants are being tried in absentia.
IRAN: Nuclear talks with P5+1 restart after working agreement. The race to finalise treaty terms before July will commence on Tuesday. Coming to a final treaty will prove exceedingly difficult, especially as Republican lawmakers in the US apply legislation to limit the lifting of sanctions, a key demand of Iranian negotiators.
BALKANS: EU oversees meeting to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Belgrade and Pristina have been locked in dispute after Kosovo declared independence in 2008, expanding already unstable ethnic tensions. The EU has been hosting ongoing peace talks and after some success it is hoped that the two states can normalise diplomatic relations after their Prime Minister’s meet.
EU: European Commission unveils next round of measures to tackle Illegal fishing. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is believed to represent at least 15 per cent of global catches, causing both environmental and economic havoc. The EU has stepped up measures to control its fishing fleets in recent years, and these latest steps could see trade repercussions on governments that fail to regulate the industry.
GERMANY: Trial of 93 year old Auschwitz guard. SS Rottenführer Oskar Groening was responsible for accounting for assets seized from the dead at Auschwitz. He is being charged in connection with the mass murder of 425,000 people. He denies having any responsibility for the murders. The trial will see over 55 survivors and victim’s families as plaintiffs.
WEDNESDAY 22 APRIL 2015
USA: Bowe Bergdahl to appear before a court-martial. The US Army Sergeant who was held captive by the Taliban for five years before being recovered in a controversial prisoner swap faces charges of desertion and misbehavior in the face of the enemy in a case that could prove highly embarrassing to the White House.
EGYPT: Al Jazeera journalists to appear in court for retrial hearing. Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are still facing trial for ‘spreading false information’ in support of the Muslim Brotherhood despite their colleague Peter Greste’s release.
HONG KONG: Government to release political reform plan. The plan will outline the process for elections to be conducted in 2017 and will be debated by Hong Kong’s legislature. However with ongoing protests and a movement demanding universal suffrage the plans could spark demonstrations and clashes with police.
RUSSIA: Argentine President visits Moscow seeking investment and arms. Relations between Argentina and Russia have strengthened as Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner meets Vladimir Putin to try and boost mutual investment. However the visit has caused Britain to reinforce the Falkland Islands after reports that Russia intends to lease Argentine military aircraft.
Jack Merlin Watling - 16 April 2015
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Egyptian troops en route as Houthis thought to move towards Saudi border. The Saudi led bombing campaign has been intensifying and becoming increasingly unpredictable. At the same time rumours are emerging of a push north towards the Saudi border by Houthi militias and photos have been leaked of Egyptian infantry units en-route to the conflict.
INDIA: Hindu political group calls for the sterilisation of India's Muslims. India's Hindu fundamentalist movement Shiv Sena has made the call only days after demanding the disenfranchisement of the Indian Muslim population.
THURSDAY 16 APRIL 2015
GREECE: Deadline for reform proposals to unlock bailout aid. Proposals must be finalised on Thursday for a deal to be reached at the Eurogroup meeting on April 24th. Athens’ early projections have been met with scepticism by the EU and IMF negotiators who doubt Greece’s optimistic revenue projections. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will be speaking on the prospects of reform and economic renewal in Washington.
RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin stages annual live phone in question & answer session. Putin’s annual call in show will see him in conversation with pre-screened members of the public answering their questions on selected issues. 1.7 million questions have purportedly been submitted to the Kremlin already. It is expected that the situation in Ukraine, possible recognition of the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as Russia’s defence position and military preparedness will form significant components of the discussion.
UK: Rio Tinto AGM targeted by protesters. Trade unionists and welfare activists will converge on London having travelled from Mongolia, Madagascar, Inuit communities in Canada, Indonesia, Namibia and other countries.
HAGUE: Lebanon tribunal opens case against famous Lebanese journalist. The Tribunal’s work, investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, has been a long source of tensions within Lebanon. This trial however has raised concerns over the freedom of the press after Karma al-Khayat was accused of being in contempt of court and could face up to a seven year jail sentence.
INDIA / PAKISTAN: India to fire the latest in a series of tit-for-tat missile tests. India will launch the nuclear-capable Agni-III missile from an Island off shore of the eastern state of Odisha. The launch comes as Prime Minister Modi seeks French assistance in building new nuclear power facilities and Canada approves the export of uranium to India for the first time since India developed nuclear weapons.
RUSSIA: International security conference brings China’s Chang Wanquan to Moscow. As Japan reports that incursions into its airspace from China and Russia reach ‘Cold War Levels’ the two countries are to discuss their strategic relationship at a conference bringing together fifteen defence ministers from across the Eurasian region. US concerns over growing Chinese militarism and Russian naval and air exercises over Europe will mean the conference is carefully watched.
UK: Opposition leaders pre-election TV debate. After a chaotic seven-way leaders debate in the run up to a neck and neck May 7th election, opposition leaders are hoping to distinguish themselves in a separate televised debate. Both the parties in Britain’s ruling coalition have refused to participate.
FRIDAY 17 APRIL 2015
ISRAEL / PALESTINE: Palestinian Prisoners' Day marked after Israel arrests dozens in West Bank raids. The annual day of protest over 6,000 Palestinians detained by Israel, will be particularly tense this year after Israel conducted a series of raids on the West Bank town of Nablus, detaining many who had previously been released in a prisoner swap.
THAILAND: Publication of the country’s post-coup constitution. Thailand will publish the first draft of a new constitution after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, then army chief, seized power in May of last year. This will be Thailand’s 20th new constitution and it is expected to be aimed at preventing a Thaksinite government gaining control as before. It will for the first time identify ‘the third gender’, recognising Thailand’s transgender citizens in law and is also expected to bolster the power of the courts to limit the next monarch.
INDIA: Opposition Congress Party leader to emerge from ‘personal sabbatical’. Rahul Gandhi, Scion and Vice President of the Congress Party, disappeared from public view after the victory of Narendra Modi. His return is expected to herald a new strategy for his party, which could decide its future.
GREECE / RUSSIA: Greek Defense Minister visits Russia for defence talks. The move comes after a controversial recent aligning of Greek and Russian interests at the expense of the wider EU block and a visit to Russia by Greek Prime Minister Tsipras to encourage closer ties in spite of the EU Russia standoff over Ukraine.
BAHRAIN: Grand Prix race begins. Bahrain's Grand Prix has in the past been the target of protests. Following a recent gulf-wide clampdown after Sunni-Shia tensions escalated in response to the Saudi air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Grand Prix could see opposition demonstrations.USA / INTERNATIONAL: World Bank and IMF Annual Spring Meetings. The three day conferences will focus on the global economy, international development, and global financial markets.
SATURDAY 18 APRIL 2015
IRAN: Iran marks its annual army day with an expansive military parade. The Australian Foreign Minister is to attend. This will be watched closely in light of Iran's rapprochement with the west and increasingly aggressive posturing towards its Saudi neighbours.
SUNDAY 19 APRIL 2015
FINLAND: Parliamentary elections as economy on the brink. Finland has been in recession for three years while the four party ruling coalition remains highly unstable. Opposition leader Juha Sipila, who many expect to emerge as Finland’s next Prime Minister has warned that Finland could become the next Greece, but without the promise of foreign bailouts.
CUBA: Opposition stands against Communist Party in National General Assembly elections. Cuba is seeing a surprise run by two opposition politicians against the ruling Communist Party for positions in the National General Assembly. The two men have been allowed to stand, but censors have altered their campaign material to suggest that they are dangerous. The challenge is the first since a rapprochement between Cuba and the US, started in December.
SAUDI / UAE: French FM to visit the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Laurent Fabius is visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time under the rule of King Salman. This trip is described by the French as being particularly focused on economic and commercial cooperation but Fabius will also be meeting the defence minister and it is expected that much of the time will be spent discussing the regional crises of Yemen, Iraq/Syria and Iran.
RUSSIA: Opposition plan protest in Moscow. A coalition of opposition groups have requested permission for 30,000 demonstrators to protest in Moscow, but numbers are expected to be very low as Russia’s opposition remains demoralised after the assassination of Boris Nemtzov. Putin remains broadly popular across the country.
Jack Merlin Watling, 13 April 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: US restarts drone strikes. US drone strikes against Al-Qaeda targets have been carried out for the first time since America evacuated its special forces from the country. Foreign coalition ground forces, probably Egyptian, could join the conflict within days. Thousands have been displaced by the bombing and UN calls for a ceasefire have been ignored.
EGYPT: Bombings in Sinai kill 14. The latest attacks against security forces in the peninsula come after an Egyptian court upheld a controversial death sentence for the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie.
BANGLADESH: Security forces prepare for protests after execution of Islamist leader. One of the leading figures of the opposition Jamaat e Islami movement was executed this weekend for crimes committed during the country’s 1971 Independence war against Pakistan. The government expects civil unrest over the coming days.
INDIA: Hindu nationalists stoke inter-communal tensions. Popular hard right Hindu fundamentalist group Shiv Sena called on Sunday for Muslims to lose their right to vote.
MONDAY 13 APRIL 2015
SUDAN: Presidential and parliamentary elections (until 15th). Sudan’s president is elected in a two-round system, so if no candidate gains a majority of the vote in the first round, a run-off will be held. The election was delayed from 2 April. The opposition has denounced the election as fraudulent and called for a mass boycott, and the EU has said the poll cannot produce a credible result.
KUWAIT: Appeal of blogger facing two years’ prison for tweets. Opposition activist Ayyad al-Harbi was sentenced for re-tweeting verses in which Iraqi poet Ahmad Matar blasted Arab rulers.
US: Marco Rubio expected to announce presidential bid. If Senator Marco Rubio declares his intention to run for the White House he will be the third contender in the Republican primaries, although may run into an uncomfortable battle if Jeb Bush joins the race, as the two have worked closely together.
UK: Labour party launches election manifesto. Four weeks prior to parliamentary polls, the main parties are outlining their policies.
TUESDAY 14 APRIL 2015
USA / IRAQ: Iraqi PM visits Washington to discuss Islamic State fight. Haider Al-Abadi is rumoured to be seeking further weapons deliveries from the US to support the Iraqi army’s struggle to take back areas that fell to the extremist group last year. His visit comes amid differences with the US over strategy following the liberation of Tikrit.
CAMBODIA: Cambodian authorities expected to pardon mothers in prison. The Cambodian government has come under fierce criticism for its policy of keeping children with their parents in prison. Prime Minister Hun Sen has aimed to release mothers and pregnant inmates ahead of the Khmer New Year this Tuesday.
SIERRA LEONE: Schools reopen as Ebola under control. Students have not been to school in seven months, but as new cases of the killer virus continue to decline, the Ministry of Education is to reopen schools. Teachers have been trained in identifying Ebola symptoms. Schools were to open two weeks ago, but the move was postponed.
UK: Ruling Conservative Party to launch election manifesto for May poll. There have been reports that the Tories had yet to finalise their manifesto amid concerns that the party’s message is not positive enough.
US: Republicans seek to undermine Iran nuclear negotiations through legislation. The US Senate foreign relations committee is to consider the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act 2015, a bill that Republicans are hoping will place legal restrictions on the White House’s nuclear deal, potentially rendering the lifting of sanctions impossible.
MALTA: Hunting season begins following Europe-wide campaign against the sport. The country’s controversial hunting season officially opens, following a referendum in which voters narrowly rejected a ban on shooting migratory birds. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has warned hunters “it will not be business as usual” after the referendum, which attracted campaigners from across northern Europe.
WEDNESDAY 15 APRIL 2015
INTERNATIONAL: Chinese-led rival to IMF announces final list of founding members. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has attracted support from many Asian countries as well as Israel, Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom. America views the bank a rival to other global financial institutions and initially discouraged states from joining.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 9 April 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
IRAQ: Baghdad and Washington debate next stage of push against Islamic State. Iraq’s leadership is keen to liberate the western Anbar province, where it could achieve a swift “all-Iraqi” victory against IS forces. US officials argue ousting the group from Mosul would be a better long-term strategy - but that would require US airstrikes, which many Iraqi Shiite militias are reluctant to accept. PM Haydar Al-Abadi has confirmed the Popular Committee militia will be under his office’s command from now on.
YEMEN: “Ground forces will enter the war.” Egyptian and other officials have confirmed that the Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi militants will send ground troops into Yemen in the coming days.
THURSDAY 9 APRIL 2015
GREECE: Deadline for €450 million payment to IMF. Responding to speculation that Greece may default on the payment, the deputy finance minister has said Greece will honour its debts once salaries and pensions are paid. Today’s deadline comes days after the Greek government declared that Germany owes it $382 billion in war reparations.
SOUTH KOREA: US Defense Secretary visits Seoul as North holds parliamentary session. Ashton Carter will review South Korean defences after North Korea successfully tested a long-range missile on 3 April. Carter is fresh from a visit to Japan, during which he urged states in the region to demilitarise to avoid tensions. In Pyongyang, a meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly is likely to examine chronic food shortages.
IRAN: Nuclear Technology Day. The public holiday, started in 2006 by former President Ahmadinejad, celebrates Iranian progress in nuclear technology. Speeches by the president and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran will be watched closely for official messaging around the P5+1 parameters.
INTERNATIONAL: Human Rights Watch report on legality of autonomous weapons. The use of drones has already proved highly controversial, but the deployment of fully autonomous robots that can decide to kill without human involvement poses new legal challenges, HRW will call for new legal structures.
UN: Security Council to debate Mali. A series of deadly attacks on UN bases has prompted a Security Council debate on the future of the UN peacekeeping mission to Mali, deployed in 2012 after Al Qaeda linked rebels seized the north of the country. A recent peace deal with Tuareg rebels has been tested by ongoing violent attacks including in the capital, Bamako.
FRIDAY 10 APRIL 2015
FRANCE: Indian Prime Minister on European Tour. As part of his efforts to reform India’s economy, Narendra Modi is touring Europe to promote Indian exports. In France he is also seeking to close a $23 billion purchase of Rafale fighter jets and to secure French agreement to assist in building modern nuclear power plants in India.
PANAMA: Cuba attends Summit of the Americas for the first time. The inclusion of Cuba is a key test of the extent of the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. America’s recent imposition of sanctions against Venezuela, a long-standing Cuban ally, is likely to put strains on a very fragile relationship. The situation in Venezuela is expected to be high on the agenda.
UNITED KINGDOM: Defence Secretary to outline his party’s defence policy ahead of general election. Foreign policy has been virtually absent from the election campaign so far, but many commentators fear that Britain is becoming introspective. British allies will likely pay close attention to Michael Fallon’s speech, as the Conservatives have made considerable cuts to the British defence budget, much to the discomfort of the United States.
PAKISTAN: Chinese President on second visit in a month. After attending Pakistan Day celebrations in March, Xi Jinping is returning to Pakistan to sign over two dozen preliminary agreements on trade, energy, nuclear power and investment. He is also expected to address Pakistan’s parliament. China recently penned a deal to build a pipeline to bring natural gas from Iran to Pakistan.
MYANMAR: Negotiations on Constitutional Amendments. Although the military have released political prisoners, reform in Myanmar has been slower than many hoped. The negotiations will aim to alter the constitution and will hear input from opposition figures including Aung San Suu Kyi.
SATURDAY 11 APRIL 2015
NIGERIA: State gubernatorial elections. The governors of Nigeria’s 36 states hold considerable constitutional powers and the winners of these elections will have an impact on Muhammadu Buhari’s pledges to tackle corruption and fight Boko Haram.
SIERRA LEONE: Citizens ordered to stay at home in anti-Ebola campaign. The epidemic is in decline, but the government is using day long campaigns to conduct house to house checks, distribute medical supplies and provide training in a bid to ready the country for schools to reopen on 14 April.
GULF: Australia drives for Free Trade Agreement with Gulf states. Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment will be touring the region, to advance negotiations for a lucrative free trade deal with Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.
EGYPT: Grand Mufti’s final verdict on execution of Muslim Brotherhood leadership. 14 members of the Muslim brotherhood, including its leader Mohammed Badie, face the death penalty after being found guilty of planning attacks against the state.
SUNDAY 12 APRIL 2015
INTERNATIONAL: Orthodox Easter. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on Sunday with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem leading an Easter procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Meanwhile President Vladimir Putin will be attending the Easter Service in Moscow of the Russian Orthodox Church.
AZERBAIJAN: Human Rights Watch reports on Azerbaijan in run-up to European Games. Azerbaijan will host 6,000 athletes in Baku in June 2015. In the run up to the games, the government has silenced critics, detaining and imprisoning dozens of journalists, human rights defenders, political activists, and others on criminal charges, reports HRW.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 6 April, 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Battle for Aden as medical aid flown in. Houthi rebels are pushing for total control of Aden, having claimed they had taken the port on Sunday. They have also threatened attacks across the Saudi border. The Red Cross said on Sunday that it was planning to fly two aeroplanes into Yemen on Monday carrying medical supplies and aid workers. Meanwhile protests and a deadly attack on security forces have been reported in Saudi Arabia’s Shia-dominated Eastern Province, likely in response to Saudi operations in Yemen.
TURKEY: British troops begin training Syrian opposition forces. The US led initiative, set to start this week, will put thousands of Syrians through training, equip them and deploy them inside Syria. The fighters taking part have been ‘screened’ but the effectiveness of this screening will be watched carefully.
EGYPT: Ongoing anti-state violence. After a policeman was killed in Sunday’s bombing of the May 15th Bridge in Cairo’s upmarket Zamalek neighbourhood, a further security crackdown is expected in and around Cairo. Violence has also been flaring in Sinai and may prompt additional military action.
MONDAY 6 APRIL 2015
PAKISTAN / YEMEN: Special parliamentary session to decide whether to join Saudis bombing Yemen. Pakistan has close military ties to Saudi Arabia but is being careful not to provoke the Houthi rebels’ Iranian backers, who have plans to pipe natural gas to their southern neighbour.
RUSSIA: Next round of Syrian peace talks. Previous peace talks held by Russia have been denounced by opposition groups because of Russian support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. US diplomatic chief John Kerry’s comments that the US would be willing to negotiate with Assad have increased expectations of diplomatic efforts, and the Moscow talks could lead to further negotiations.
INDONESIA: Verdict in case of Australian drug traffickers on death row. Postponed several times amid frantic diplomatic efforts to obtain their release, the two Australians, accused of being in the “Bali 9” drug trafficking ring are to hear their final verdict on Monday after President Joko Widodo rejected their plea for clemency.
VIETNAM: Russian PM on state visit to Vietnam and Thailand. Dimitri Medvedev will hold negotiations with President Truong Tan Sang immediately after Vietnam signed a free trade agreement with the EU. Russia has been seeking economic and strategic allies to mitigate the effect of western economic sanctions and is also working to strengthen China’s position in Asia.
TUESDAY 7 APRIL 2015
ISRAEL: Hacker group Anonymous threaten “electronic holocaust” against Israel. The internet activists have threatened to bring down government websites and web infrastructure for Israeli banks on Tuesday in protest against “crimes in the Palestinian territories.” Anonymous brought down many Israeli websites during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2012.
IRAN: Turkish President on state visit despite tensions. President Erdogan is set to sign twelve bilateral agreements to boost trade and cooperation. Meanwhile Turkey and Iran back opposing sides in Syria. An Iranian MP called for the visit to be cancelled after Erdogan’s comments that “Iran is trying to dominate the region,” and that it “cannot be tolerated.”
INDIA: Government vaccination programme gets under way. The Indian government is launching a massive campaign to vaccinate children across rural communities in a bid to tackle diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, TB, polio, hepatitis B and measles.
NEPAL: Mass protests planned by opposition pushing for new constitution. Government negotiations with opposition groups have been in deadlock for months. The opposition once again plans to take to the streets to bring the capital to a standstill.
WEDNESDAY 8 APRIL 2015
NIGERIA: West African leaders discuss Boko Haram. A summit in Abuja will bring together military commanders from the African states contributing to an anti-Boko Haram task force. Success in fighting the extremist group, which recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, will be a crucial test for Nigeria’s President Elect, Muhammadu Buhari.
RUSSIA: Greek PM on state visit to Moscow. Alexis Tsipras has expressed sympathy for Russia as the EU imposes sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine. The Greek PM is also seeking alternative funding options for Greek loans. Russia meanwhile is seeking to break its economic isolation, and friendly relations with a state that controls access to the Mediterranean are an attractive proposition.
INDIA: Former PM Manmohan Singh in the dock over corruption charges. The Central Bureau of Investigation’s wavering over whether the evidence merited a prosecution has already raised concerns that Singh’s supporters may put political pressure on the judiciary. The charges relate to accusations of corruption in the coal industry.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 2 April 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
IRAN: Will Kerry walk away from nuclear talks? The White House said Secretary of State John Kerry would stay at the talks in Switzerland until today, but was prepared to leave if a deal could not be reached. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius left the talks early on Wednesday, saying they had not advanced enough for “an immediate deal”.
TURKEY: Courthouse shootout raises fears of further street violence. A deadly attack on a courthouse by left-wing militants has raised the spectre of further violence between police and protesters. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said authorities will not let people stage unauthorized protests “for even one minute”. More violence between protestors and police is likely.
YEMEN: Foreign nationals prepare for evacuation as Saudi mulls ground invasion. A senior Saudi military official hinted that a ground invasion could happen in days to crush Houthi militants. Meanwhile India, Britain and America, which all have significant populations in Yemen, are expected to evacuate them in the coming days.
NIGERIA: Aftermath of Presidential election. Incoming President Mohamadou Buhari said he wishes to meet with incumbent Goodluck Jonathan to ensure good will between the two camps. The last election resulted in widespread ethnic violence. Buhari also said he would spare no effort to fight Boko Haram.
ISRAEL / PALESTINE / FRANCE: French efforts to revive Israel / Palestine peace process. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he expected discussions to begin at the UN in the coming days over a resolution that would address borders, Jerusalem and refugees as a basis for renewed talks between the two parties.
THURSDAY 2 APRIL 2015
UNITED KINGDOM: Televised leaders’ debates ahead of May election. The leaders of seven parties will debate their policies on live TV after prolonged wrangling over who could take part. All eyes are on opposition leader Ed Miliband, who has so far failed to convincingly connect with the public.
ARGENTINA: President’s speech likely to reassert Falklands claim. Cristina Fernandez, who has repeatedly clashed with the UK over the islands, will address veterans of the Falklands War as part of “Malvinas Day” commemorations. Last year she accused the UK of “obsolete military colonialism” over the islands.
MALAWI: Government burns ivory stockpiles. Malawi will become the latest African country to burn its inventory of ivory in a public campaign to discourage poaching. Over 46 states are currently implementing an agreement to tackle the killing of almost 30,000 elephants annually that is causing elephant populations to rapidly decline.
HONG KONG: British banker accused of murder and mutilation of two women enters plea. Rurik Jutting, a 29 year old Cambridge graduate, is charged with killing two Indonesians in his apartment in November 2014. One of the bodies was found in a suitcase on his balcony. The trial is expected to begin on 6 July.
FRIDAY 3 APRIL 2015
NEPAL: Opposition closes down government. As part of the ongoing protests regarding Nepal's new constitution, opposition parties said they will shut down all government institutions across the country for four days. Meanwhile, thousands of doctors went on strike this week to support a colleague who has been on a hunger strike for 10 days demanding reforms in medical education and services.
GHANA: IMF expected to approve $940 million loan. The extended credit facility is intended to salvage Ghana’s troubled economy, which has been hit by falling commodity prices and the currency’s depreciation. The crisis has led to severe power shortages.
TURKEY: Trial of teenager on charges of insulting the President. The 16-year-old, known by his initials of M.E.A., is part of an online group called “Democratic High School Students”. He reportedly addressed a public gathering to say that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was “the leader of corruption, bribery and theft”.
KYRGYZSTAN: Putin tests waters for his Eurasian Dream. A meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose grouping of post-Soviet states, could give clues as to whether those states are willing to bind themselves closer to the Kremlin as Russia’s economy struggles. Notably, Ukraine will be in attendance.
SATURDAY 4 APRIL 2015
SIERRA LEONE: Lockdown to tackle spread of Ebola. The “Zero Ebola” campaign is aimed to keep 2.5 million people at home on set dates “to reflect and to pray for the eradication of this disease from our country," in the words of President Ernest Bai Koroma. While the outbreak appears to have peaked, the virus remains a serious threat.
EGYPT: Feminist leader on trial for unauthorised protests. Azza Soliman was having lunch with friends when she witnessed the shooting of activist Shaima Sabbagh and went to the prosecutor’s office to give evidence. She was then detained, but later posted her testimony on Facebook. She is accused of protesting illegally and of breaching public order and security.
SUNDAY 5 APRIL 2015
INDIA: Anti-graft helpline returns. The anti-corruption service lets people report demands for bribes by government workers in the Indian capital. It received more than 4,000 calls in the first few hours of its launch in 2014, and is now to be re-instated by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Editing by Paul Raymond.